Pregnant Then Screwed Teachers – the aftermath

Pregnant Then Screwed Teachers

On the 28thFebruary 2019, Pregnant Then Screwed held an event specifically for teachers.  Instigated by the vast number of teachers who contact Pregnant Then Screwed for advice, the event, run by a panel of experts from education, HR and employment law, took place across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter throughout the day.  With the panel answering over 200 questions, and with 9.5k interacting with the event in total, it was clear, even from the outset, that the employment landscape in teaching is unfortunately hugely inconsistent, subjective and lacking in transparency at best, and unlawfully discriminatory at worst.

Reinforcing the statistic that the biggest group of teachers leaving the profession are, predictably, women aged between 35-39 leaving to start a family, the majority of the teachers posting were either on maternity leave or parents of young children facing unnecessary obstacles in their attempts to return to the profession or progress in their career. It is also clear from the many comments that dedicated, talented teachers are getting pushed out because many heads are holding on to an outmoded dogma and culture of presenteeism that just doesn’t stack up in the face of evidence that teachers are more productive, efficient, loyal and, ultimately, happier when offered a more flexible approach to their work-life balance. One teacher commented Working four days has undoubtedly made me a better teacher because I am able to prioritise far better, making myself do the most necessary things and cut the bullshit. I return to work refreshed and with ideas that I’ve been able to mull over.”

Whilst individual experiences were varied, the common denominator of those commenting on the posts, were feelings of injustice, frustration and, in many cases, stress-related anxiety. A great number of teachers commenting were seeking legal and HR advice about maternity discrimination and employment rights, having been denied their flexible working request. Some had also experienced demotions or been treated inequitably in the workplace. One teacher, who had experienced such issues, commented After so long with a school you’d think they would remember you’re a valued member of a team, not someone to punish and work against!”. Another teacher, who had been granted flexible working, said “It’s all lip service though, my school likes the idea of it but doesn’t help or support me and I end up doing all the extras at home”, and another commented “I am losing my confidence as a teacher as I don’t have time when I’m there to do my job properly. I’ve effectively taken a pay cut to do more work in less time”. 

For some teachers, it was a welcome space to not feel they were alone in their experiences. One teacher said “It feels hard and I feel vulnerable, and sometimes too stressed to think I’m not being unreasonable for asking for these things at work. Knowing that others are in the same boat makes me feel less isolated”. Others offered their support in other ways with one teacher commenting “My son had two teachers and they’re fantastic! Wish he could have them forever, unlike his one last year. Working hours are no indication of how good you are at a job. I’m so proud that my son has an example of how working flexibly is ‘normal’”.

The event also revealed some very positive experiences. One deputy head who works four days, and flexibly around her children’s school run the rest of the week, said her school gives each teacher one ‘working from home’ day a term to use for things such as sports days or nativity plays. She also commented on the importance of having a supportive head I realise that this is not the norm in teaching but if one day I become a Head this is how I plan to lead too. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a Head who didn’t give a s**t and almost left the profession because of it. So hang in there!”

Lindsay Patience from Flexible Teacher Talent says that the culture is changing gradually and some heads are more open than they were. She advises that flexible working requests also have to be approved by governors, many of whom work outside the education sector and may be valuable allies as they are often surprised at how inflexible teaching can be. She goes on to say that this culture shift takes time and schools are conservative organisations so examples of where it works need to be shared more openly. Schools should begin to see flexibility as beneficial to all staff – and, of course, this is one way to retain effective teachers and improve pupil outcomes.

There clearly is still a long way to go to achieve this culture shift but events like this one are an important step in keeping the conversation going. With organizations such as Return to Teach, Flexible Teacher Talent, The Maternity Teacher Paternity Teacher Project and The Shared Headship Network, there is already a bedrock of support for teachers available, and with wider campaigns for flexible working such as Pregnant Then Screwed and Anna Whitehouse’s #flexappeal, the precedent is starting to be set.

Thank you to all the teachers who commented on the posts for the online event. We hope we managed to answer your queries. If you are in need of further advice then you can visit the websites of Return to TeachFlexible Teacher TalentThe MTPT Projectand The Shared Headship Networkas well as ring the Pregnant Then Screwed advice line on 0161 930 5300

Michelle Thomason has taught in the sixth form sector for over 18 years. She has previously worked flexibly as a Curriculum Area Leader but now teaches part time whilst studying for a doctorate in education. She is also a campaigner for flexible working, written blogs for education publications and, last year, spoke at the inaugural New Voices conference to teachers and school leaders about the importance of flexible working. 


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