school children in class

Do primary school pupils benefit when two teachers ‘job share’ their class? Traditionally, a class is assigned to just one teacher for the year and will be taught most lessons by that teacher. Job sharing means that two or three days into each week the teachers switch or two teachers may alternate from day to day.

With a growing crisis in teacher recruitment, it looks as though this arrangement will become more usual. The Department for Education is becoming increasingly well disposed towards part-time teachers sharing a class. Its website carries a regular blog from teachers addressing a range of issues such as training, recruitment and ‘workload challenge’. Under the latter category a recent blog was headed: ‘Flexible working: Putting our pupils at the heart of our flexible working policy’. The DfE-approved author of the blog is the CEO of Hearts Academy Trust which runs six primary schools in Essex.

It is not difficult to see an obvious advantage of having one’s child taught as part of a job share if the alternative is a sub-standard teacher for five days. If the consequence of a job share is, however, the loss of a good teacher for half the week, then its benefits are less clear.

The blog published by the DfE is intended to offer reassurance. We are informed that job sharing means ‘flexibility’, and ‘flexibility’, of course, is a really good thing. Furthermore, its implementation is founded on this reassurance: ‘Pupil achievement and well-being comes first in every application for flexible working’. It adds that ‘flexible working’ is ‘an opportunity to do things differently, improve outcomes and improve working conditions for staff’.

The downside of young children being taught by a different part-time class teacher on different days is not mentioned. The pupil-teacher relationship and, indeed, bonding, so crucial at this early stage of schooling, can be thrown into a state of confusion. Younger pupils invariably crave the recognisable, the familiar and the routine. They tend to be remarkably conservative and are inclined to loathe even the arrival of a one-day supply teacher. For infants, in particular, being at the receiving end of a job share can be disorienting and confusing.

The re-defining of job sharing as ‘flexibility’, and the claim that it will ‘improve outcomes’, is disingenuous. Even at secondary school it can be undesirable, not least because of the constraints it places on the whole school timetable. And who wants their children to be taught any GCSE subject by more than one teacher? Only at A-level does syllabus breadth make a two-teacher approach appropriate.

Sometimes, job sharing may be the only viable way forward for a school struggling to recruit teachers. It may even work in favour of children if it mitigates the impact of poor teaching. In most cases, however, especially for young children, it is undesirable and potentially damaging.

Most schools impress on children the importance of honesty. It is time for some of them to practise what they preach. If job sharing happens to be making the best of a difficult situation, they need to admit this to parents. The real villain of the piece, though, is the DfE. Hiding behind its website teaching blog it is actively promoting a dishonest cover-up of a recruitment crisis.

What next – 15 per cent qualifying as a ‘good pass’ in GCSE maths? No, that fraud has already been perpetrated.


  1. The 15% good pass is a real issue for three reasons

    1. 15% can be achieved by knowing at most only 25% of the syllabus

    2. Raising the pass mark would lead to vast numbers failing
    3. Making the exam easier and so allowing a higher pass mark with the same proportion getting the grades would quickly show how low standards really are. The current exam is a challenge, but since candidates do not need to get nothing like all of it right, it becomes meaningless. There would also be different “vintages” of GCSE Maths……

    Solution? Scrap the GCSE. Start teaching maths well in primary schools. Accept that good maths teachers need more pay and smaller groups.

    Never happen. Like everything else about modern Britain, we will just stagger on like we always have done….

    Not a priority. The new priority is to sink money into ensuing that boys can pretend that they are girls etc…..

    • A report in 1945 showed that there was a desperate shortage of teachers of mathematics. Nothing has changed because no one shows the leadership needed to change it. The trouble is there are no quick fixes. It takes time and politicians have very short term eyes.

      • “The trouble is there are no quick fixes. It takes time and politicians have very short term eyes.” Yup…stuff like that falls into the equation politicians hate…..costs now for gains later.

    • There are shortages in other subjects so additional pay for Mathematics teachers would be divisive.
      Anyhow, other subjects add to and supplement mathematical ability, including Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Geology, Business studies, Accounts…………..
      As for flexible teaching, why should this be available to other professions and not teaching?

      • Certainly this latter is true in the NHS and Social Care. In a something of a paradox the young staff with children need money so are keen to earn , I suspect housing costs play a big part in this, so in fact much of the “flexibility ” is afforded to the older age ranges who have less urgent need for the money if both they and their partner work and the mortgage is paid off. in fact quite a number also use this flexibility or early retirement to provide childcare to grandchildren. It wouldn’t surprise me if the same was true in teaching.

  2. I disagree. I believe children,often switch off to the same teacher voice and style every school day. Job shares sound a good idea.

  3. There are pros and cons. If a child, for any reason, doesn’t get on with the class teacher it may help if the job is shared. It will get children used to the idea of different teachers for different subjects at the senior school, if this is still the practice. Different teachers (in my day) had a different approach to a subject and whilst one approach may fail with a particular child, a different approach might succeed, particularly in maths.
    But however you look at it, two part time teachers are better than none or oversized classes.

    • ” It will get children used to the idea of different teachers for different subjects at the senior school, if this is still the practice…” It is…

    • “…and whilst one approach may fail with a particular child, a different approach might succeed, particularly in maths.” Could not agree more…

  4. Some honesty would be refreshing; more than that, it would enable everyone to see where the problems really lie. But instead, we just get the predictable fudge, designed to deceive.

    The test for these assertions is to take them to their logical conclusions. If flexibility, i.e. job-sharing, is indeed a means of improvement, then schools obviously need more of it; and the more the better. So why not have more than two teachers per class? How about a new teacher for each day of the week? Or for each lesson per day? Even two or three teachers to alternate during each lesson? That would be mega flexibility, and thus, supposedly, the route to mega improvement.

    Same argument for the drive to get more women onto the boards of top companies. We are constantly being told that more women mean bigger improvements. In which case, the obvious thing to do is to remove all men from the top jobs and pack the boardrooms with women. That will maximise the improvements. Then all we have to do is to stand back and watch our economic performance rocket into the stratosphere. So what are we waiting for?

    • Similar argument for the gender pay gap. Schools must be extremely cheap in wages and what business wouldn’t employ an all female staff at such value for money!

  5. Part-time workers want equal rights to teach, doctor, lead companies and be our MPs.

    Schools have yet to figure out how to support their children in their continuity of relationships and learning when taught by more than one person.

  6. Non class based heads and managers are piling on the work to teachers and doing no time/task analysis. Many primary schools now require every marked piece of work to have a positive comment and a “next step” comment. That is two summary written comments plus other notes for every piece of work. Times that by 30 children and 3 pieces per child per day plus all the other planning and preparations and one can see why many teachers feel that the job they love is no longer an option.

    • Some Academy High Schools are also demanding positive comment and next step…every piece of work marked up to date…regular inspections to check etc

      It was taking me 3 hours to get all marking done before leaving school…drive home, cook, eat, prep for next day …

      It became a never ending nightmare ..

      I was teaching more than 300 pupils a week, marking and commenting in green ink:) and ensuring pupils comment on my comment in red ink 🙂

      So glad to be out of it…

  7. Its a very large part of the problems with the NHS and other public sector employers who offer their staff extraordinarily privileged employment terms at the expense of “consumers”.

    My local GP practice has 12 GP’s of whom 11 work part-time. Many of them are married to each other and other GP’s. Its great if you have a young family and can pull in £70k per annum between you and provide full time child care whilst each working 2 days a week.

    For the patients less so. They cannot run a system of assigned GP’s so you see a different GP each time which is no sane persons idea of a sensible way to manage a patients health. If you do need to see say a musulskeletally trained GP who can administer cortisone injections, a common treatment for arthritis, then you have to ring during a half hour slot one morning and if your lucky you will secure one of the appointments available over the next 2 week cycle. Otherwise its back to the phone 2 weeks later. A raffle would be as effective.

    Meantime other commercially savvy GP’s have worked out that being a locum can easily net you £800 a shift. Although as one I met explained to me, whilst paying off your mortgage in your 30’s was fantastic, most of the practices you work in are in a state of chaos often because of part-time working.

    Its scandalous.

    • Another issue is income tax and so called in work benefits. A part time GP working 16 hours a week with child care expenses could increase their hours by 50% or by 100% and their net income increases by at most 25% and 50%. For many GPs the value of 25% or 50% more net pay can’t possibly justify 50% or 100% more work.

      Britain must make work pay and so encourage highly skilled people to work a full week, not actively encourage them to waste their expensive tax payer funded training with marginal tax rates and loss of benefits that discourage work.

      The disincentive to work in the UK is almost certainly far worse for less skilled workers.

      The 13% flat rate tax in Russia is something to consider.

      • “The 13% flat rate tax in Russia is something to consider.” As is the non-existent welfare system….now all you’ve got to do is tell people you’re cutting their income tax to 13% but that everything else goes… …best of luck with that. Flat taxes are handy for those at the bottom and very, very, very handy for those at the top of the income pile…everyone else gets it in the f**kin’ neck. Oh, if you’re interested…

        • Most of the unemployed and low paid in the West experience their distress because the costs of benefits prices them out of well paid work.

          Never believe Richard Murphy. When Eire joined the EU, average earns were 30% of those in the UK. Now after years of low corporate taxes, they are 130% of the UK.

          Murphy is paid to campaign for high taxes in the UK for very obvious reasons.

          • Err….it wasn’t just low taxes that powered the Irish economy….how is the Irish economy….ohh….that’s right it was so f**ked not so long ago that the UK had to bail it out….

          • “Most of the unemployed and low paid in the West experience their distress because the costs of benefits prices them out of well paid work.” Eh? What does that mean?

  8. “With a growing crisis in teacher recruitment”
    … now I don’t have much respect for the teaching profession these days, but on the other side of the coin, with classroom discipline being more like riot control, the worry of a sexual abuse allegation from Chantelle hanging over you because you wouldn’t let Chantelle smoke weed in class and getting sacked for sending a kid home for having a haircut like a Guatemalan Quetzal, who on earth would choose teaching as a profession nowadays?

    • What is wrong with having such a haircut? Teachers can no longer beat pupils and shouldn’t be able to dictate their hairstyles either.

      • Hair style should be rightly regarded as part of the school uniform and therefore should be reasonably sensible. You wouldn’t employ a guy with a punk mohawk and tattoos. Schools should be reinforcing social norms.

        • “Schools should be reinforcing social norms.” Hmm….it’s not the ’50s anymore…there are more choices for a chap than short, back ‘n’ sides…. …and (this might shock you), we don’t force young men to join HM forces, to go to somewhere foreign and risk getting their head shot off for reasons of little discernible value….

          • Or fortunately depending on your point of view….oh. if National Service was such a good idea, why did the Royal Navy continually fight tooth and nail to keep NS personnel out of the Navy?

          • Exactly. This isn’t the fifties any more, and look at what 70 years of liberalism has wrought through the slow eroding of standards.

      • It may seem like a trivial issue, but the danger is that it starts a slippery slope downwards towards an overall decline in standards. Schooling works best when there is a certain amount of standards and personal appearance is part of that. Once you’ve left school, no problem with doing what the heck you like – but don’t think for a minute you’d get away with it if you left school to join the army looking like a ridiculous ponce.

        • “but don’t think for a minute you’d get away with it if you left school to join the army looking like a ridiculous ponce.” I would rather think that decision is best left to this sort o’ selection board… (And yes, I did rummage to find something ancient… 🙂 )

          • Are you a parent gunnerbear?

            Perhaps not from your “let it all hang out man” comments.

            When my children attended school, not too long ago, the standards of dress required was an absolute blessing. No “competition” as to who had the most expensive trainers, stupidest haircut etc. for a parent to fund, or if not funded a picked on child for not having them.

            Have you ever employed anyone and paid for him / her out of your “own” money to “represent” your business to customers?

            I suspect not, but you never know one day you might, and I’m sure the tattooed punk may not be the successful candidate.

          • I work in heavy industry with lots of ‘big kit’ moving around….I’m rather more concerned with people being able to stay safe and do the job rather than what their hairstyle is.

          • I note you avoid answering either question I posed.

            You do not think those you require to stay safe and do the job have to follow the rules, but of course if they have let it all hang out as you seem to want everyone to do they may struggle, not having previously had to follow the rules?

    • Or being disciplined by the school for refusing to use incorrect sexual identity references. Ironically named “mis-gendering”

    • getting sacked it seems likely for one teacher in the news, for asking a group of girls to move

      Apparently, one had decided that she was not female………

      • You got that wrong. He didn’t say “move along, girls”. He said “well done, girls”. And got suspended when one of the girls complained.

    • Partly, the main wrecker is the ‘Equality Act’ whereby all employers have to token/quota/diversity hire. On the other side of that coin, some employees milk the system to such an extent that their work achievement is to do sod all for years.

      • Working at a “good” university it is quite apparent that there is a major imbalance between male and female uindergraduates, which will exacerbate the part time workforce problem further in due course.

        Universities are pressured to tick boxes for their diversity in race, background etc , but seemingly the obvious discrimination against male students is being ignored.

        I hope someone will tell me universities can only take on those who apply and then by by qualifications. I will reply agreeing that is how it should be, but then ask why therefore does it matter what the background or race of the applicant for a course is.

  9. I’m in my late thirties and attended first and middle schools. Here is my experience; My secondary school was mixed teachers for each subject. But first and middle was one teacher for the year.

    I cannot even recall them having a day off sick (unlike my secondary school teachers who I remember being sick and we had ineffective supply teachers). I can recall in middle school only one class that had two teachers,and the following year that class had to have one of the more stricter STEM teachers to catch up. Coincidence? Maybe.

    But part of me Instinctively thinks children under 11 need that stable routine of a single teacher.

  10. My youngest son had this arrangement in his reception class, it was dire. The focus was firmly on box-ticking and the average majority of kids facilitating this arrangement. My son was either slow to learn or just lazy maybe, but the first instinct of these two women was to reach for the dyslexia card in order to shift the problem away from their own cosy arrangement, and this was a reception class remember! He is not dyslexic and is currently a manufacturing engineer apprentice.

  11. This is what happens when you feminise a profession.
    You have a shortage because men are actively discouraged and won’t go near it and women are more disposed to want flexible part time arrangements (who would have guessed!).
    Same is happening with GP services.

    • Absolutely, and people are assuming (incorrectly) that we women only have family duties in connection with children.

      Even for those of us who are not mothers (and not by choice, in my case) are likely to have the lion’s share of family duties, and to want (or even feel an inner compulsion), to help our families.

      Dealing with the many complications around ailing elderly parents has cost me several months of work in the last couple of years, which would have definitely cost me my job, had I been employed by someone else.

      Luckily I have been able to keep my business going, but had to make staff redundant and also to throttle back on growth plans to re-engineer what we do so that it is less dependent on me as an individual.

      Family comes first.

    • Although another sign of declining professional standards you cannot really blame those who exploit this system except when you have to put up with their activist spokespeople complaining about eviltorycuts and pretending they have it tough and are saints.

      The fundamental problem is that opposition to sexism and racism is the new state religion its called rather hilariously “diversity”. In reality sexism and racism as it was originally identified no longer really exists. The increasingly dangerous academy spends its time inventing new forms of “discrimination” such as the “gender pay gap” and “white privilege” and the new cleresy enforces compliance with all the terrifying power and injustice that has always been available to politicised religion.

      The end result being the creation of a new very very self-interested privileged class that bears some resemblance to the ultimately suicidal 1970’s trade unions (though incomparably wealthier) Its not good and it will be very difficult to get rid of unless we find another exceptional conservative woman.

      • I don’t blame anyone for taking advantage of a system. It is the system that is flawed (as are most government systems) and needs to be changed, however the leaders of the feminising movement have to much to lose by its loss and so will fight tooth and nail to perpetuate it.

        • You are wrong.

          Imagine you worked at a bank and you discovered a way to loot customers accounts without any risk of being caught. Your moral duty is to report the issue and help close the loophole not take advantage and steal other peoples’ cash.

          So I do blame people for taking advantage of the system and so should you – the moral approach is to report the problem and insist it’s fixed.

          • Are you implying that what they are doing is illegal or immoral?
            So you are comparing people who use a government system to get work equivalent to someone embezzling money from a bank?
            Put your straw men back in the box and think harder.

          • You wrote: “I don’t blame anyone for taking advantage of a system.” Not “…this system.”

            In my book “Taking advantage of a system” you believe is flawed is immoral.

          • I think it was pretty obvious what I was talking about given the parenthesised reference to government systems.
            If you need to be pedantic to prove your point, you have already lost.

  12. ‘Flexible working: Putting our pupils at the heart of our flexible working policy.’ There we have a typically disingenuous boast, one that the DfE-approved author no doubt copied straight from the Big Book of Public Sector Boilerplate.

    As Chris alludes to in his article, the only way in which Primary School pupils will realistically benefit from job-sharing is if it provides the group, or individuals within it, with temporary respite from an incompetent or vindictive teacher. And while that might indeed be the reality for some pupils, I doubt the scheme’s proponents are sufficiently honest to advance the candid argument that a division of the tutoring might help mitigate bad teaching.

    A policy of flexible working and job-sharing at Primary School level is, of course, entirely for the benefit of the teaching staff, a body which is now almost entirely female, many of whom will, quite understandably, seek a ‘family-friendly’ working week. And when in the public sector there is a conflict of interests, ultimately the benefits to the employees will always trump the needs of those of they are supposed to serve.

  13. I’ve been Chair of governers at a primary school where there was a job-share. for both teachers, it allowed young mothers to get back into work and retain their teaching skills and career progression while giving time to their families. Both teachers were good, but they worked about 1/2 a day voluntarily together to tie up the development side of each pupil and ensure continuity of education. So job share can work, but depends entirely on the motivation of the teachers and sensitive management by supervisors to get the optimum result.

    • “So job share can work, but depends entirely on the motivation of the teachers and sensitive management by supervisors to get the optimum result.” Stop making sensible, careful observations….it ruins the thread… 🙂

  14. I found school deadly boring. I would think having two teachers a huge advantage over one. They are almost bound to have different interests, methods and insight and this must make it more interesting.

    It is also likely that one is better at Maths and Sciences and the other at English and liberal arts subjects. So I would expect an overall increase in the quality of tuition.

    • “I found school deadly boring. I would think having two teachers a huge advantage over one. They are almost bound to have different interests, methods and insight and this must make lessons more interesting.” Yup…. 🙂 “It is also likely that one is better at Maths and Sciences and the other at English and liberal arts subjects. It is also likely that one is far better able to motivate pupils.” Yup….

  15. Although I often agree with Chris, on this occasion I think he’s half-wrong.

    My son is in a year 2 class with a job share, and we are very happy with the standard of teaching and outcomes – he is making excellent progress, and the class has just put on a school play of a very high standard. Key to this is the commitment of the teachers to working effectively together, a good handover, etc. And this allows two good teachers to combine their jobs with more family time.

    My wife, who teaches year 4, has switched this year to a job share where she works 3 days a week, with a male colleague working 2 days. The idea being that she could help our son with his homework, which has really ramped up in Year 2 (yes, he’s in a private school). This works less well because the other teacher is not committed to the job and wants to dump all the work outside 8-3 on my wife, e.g. planning, parents evening, organising the class play, etc. My wife often ends up having to re-teach his maths lessons because the children haven’t got it. Yet, the head sees him as wonderful (perhaps because his lessons are generally regarded as engaging)…

    So I think this is about the commitment of the teachers. If you have 2 committed teachers who work well together, then it will generally work well. But if not, the children may suffer. In my wife’s case, though, she has to weigh that against the impossible demands of the full-time job (she’s still effectively working 1.5 days a week on top of the 3 she’s supposed to) and our son’s needs.

    • Two or even three committed teachers and everything is fine. One uncommitted teacher and things are far from fine. The same thing happens in industry with full time shift workers. If the opposite number on the shift isn’t committed then it drags the rest of the team down. The put upon are less willing to take up the slack.

      • If the teacher is poor, then surely having another teacher in from time to time must be a bonus. Having a poor teacher 100% of the time must be worse than having one for only a fraction of the time.
        How good a teacher is depends in part on what material they have to work with.

        • Apologies, engineers in the private sector get the boot if they are poor at their job, teaching, not so much

  16. Job sharing can work very well in some occupations. As a director I found that a pair of half a week workers often brings a freshness and enthusiasm to the job that is simply squeezed out of the full week’s slogger. But classroom teaching, where bonding with pupils, and knowing in minute details what has been taught and what is still to come, is not an appropriate occupation to consider for job share.
    Such teacher sharing is, I suspect, simply born of desperation at obtaining a ready supply of good quality such teachers.

  17. I’m not sure that I agree with the thrust of this, as I find difficulty in believing that an individual teacher can have all the skills and subject expertise to cover the needs of every pupil in a class of however many is the norm these days. Don’t we also know that teachers have their pets, and kids they positively detest? It would be strange if they did not have preferences, and even stranger if they did not show through. I suppose that all teachers have identical left-wing views these days, so a little relief from a Corbynite is not possible, but you might just escape some meanie a few days a week.
    Sometimes, all it takes is a slightly different angle on something to make it comprehensible, and that is given by a different teacher.
    Of course, in secondary schools, technical colleges and Universities, you get a multiplicity of teachers.

  18. “Pupil achievement and well-being comes first in every application for flexible working’”.

    What the hell does this mean, to start with?

    • It means: If an application comes in for flexible working then all pupils are to be classed as achieving and ecstatically content/well, even if they are not.

  19. Like any generalisation on education, this article is wide open to question.

    In reality:

    Children in shared classes can get the best of both worlds. I worked alongside two outstanding infant teachers, one with a science and maths bent, and another with arts and language. The children gained hugely from these two excellent professionals.

    They overlapped at lunchtimes, updating each other on the children’s progress.

    They spent longer ln preparation than many teachers; they had the time for it.

    The children did not suffer from the change in personality. There are two or more adults in most classrooms these days, and children benefit from learning from and adapting to different people’s styles.

    I have also been a specialist teacher, routinely teaching in other people’s classrooms once or more a week. Children welcomed the change. It prepared them for later education when they would be taught by a variety of people with a variety of methods. Change of teacher has been the case in subjects like music, swimming and some games since I was at school myself.

    In a lifetime in primary education, I have discovered only two truths:

    all children are unique

    whatever the teaching style or organisation of the school, what really matters is the person in front of the class.

    What this has o do with the NHS, gender, tax, benefits and hairstyles is beyond me.

  20. My wife and I moved to Cheshire 2½ years ago for family reasons. She got a maternity-cover job in a Catholic primary school on a one-year contract. She had been a full-time teacher in London before that.

    I noticed that, more and more, she was working long hours for 7 days a week, so I suggested she should ask if there was a part-time vacancy. In the event, the teacher whom she had replaced wanted to return on a part-time basis, and so they “shared” a class, They were able to some extent divide the subjects according to their particular skills. As they were both on 3 days a week, they were able to provide further cover for other classes in subjects they were particularly good at teaching, while covering colleagues’ “PPA Time”.

    She has continued to work part-time this year, providing support for a Year 6 class which has been a “problem class” in previous years. The school is part of an academy group, where the management has a flexible apporach to staffing across the group. (The PE teacher in this small school last year worked part-time in the primary school, and part-ime in the secondary school)

    In the case of this school, results seem to suggest that using a teacher’s aptitude in a particular subject across the school improves outcomes.

    For my wife, the net result is that she only has to work 5 days a week (while being paid for 3), which must be good for her mental health.

    I suspect that “problems with teacher recruitment” arise from the fact that many newly-trained teachers did not realise how heavy the workload is, and give up completely after a few years.

  21. Let them take GCE O levels in maths and applied maths as we had, to see just how good these schoolchildren actually are? The results will show the catastrophic failure of education in the UK over the past 40 years.

  22. I think if we didn’t have such a social crisis teachers could teach and not have to deal with the meltdown since the credit crunch and then students would come to learn-it is just teachers have to actually supply the aspiration and motivation that society supplies in successful systems and that is draining. Two teachers could be a bonus if students weren’t so needy. Also, I suppose heads don’t like it because it is more difficult to use performance indicators to bash teachers: real education would be if students were resilient and independent and not desperately inadequate as many are now due to the fragmentation of society under rampant individualism.

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