2022 Summer Term

The know zone

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  • Just how safe is the BTEC now?
    After a softening of the government's language on defunding BTECs, the first list of affected qualifications is now out. Kevin Gilmartin provides an update. More
  • Flexible working
    Hayley Dunn believes schools can successfully recruit and retain business leaders by offering them an opportunity to work from home. More
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    Will the government's new Skills and Post-16 Education Act measure up, deliver growth and boost the economy? Anne Murdoch investigates. More
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Hayley Dunn believes schools can successfully recruit and retain business leaders by offering them an opportunity to work from home.

Flexible working

The ASCL 2021 Member Pay and Conditions Survey (www.ascl.org.uk/payconditions2021) found that 5 in 10 school business leaders are considering leaving their current role, and more than 60% said they have an unacceptable work–life balance. 

The current employment market is buoyant, with competitive salaries, attractive flexible working opportunities, better conditions and employee benefits on offer in other sectors. As an example, the option to work from home for part of the week has not just become accepted practice but expected by employees in some sectors. For those with dependants previously seeking term-time school hour contracts, job roles offering home working are in some cases a viable alternative. 

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey (tinyurl.com/2jt7tzvv) showed that in December 2021, 1 in 5 employees in the UK worked from home, compared with 1 in 20 pre-pandemic. In addition to this, results from a CIPD survey of employers (tinyurl.com/4xu2xa5e) showed that 63% of respondents planned to introduce or expand the use of hybrid working to some degree, combining time in the workplace with time at home. 

Many business leadership roles have to be re-advertised and we have heard from members that they are having to recruit from a smaller pool of candidates for business and finance roles, even for roles offering substantial salaries. 

What can schools do to retain and attract business leaders? 

Although we recognise it’s not a traditional model used within education, given the nature of business leadership roles, they often lend themselves well towards being suitable for some off-site working and/ or compressed hours. Schools could offer more opportunities for flexible working, including working from home. 

What are the potential benefits? 

The most significant benefits for schools could include improved efficiency, with the ability for staff to work uninterrupted – this is crucial given the nature and complexity of some of their tasks. 

Many business leaders work beyond their contracted hours so working from home could provide them with a better work–life balance, enabling them to manage personal and professional commitments more effectively. 

It could decrease the frequency of interruptions and distractions that business leaders often experience when being constantly ‘available’ when working on-site as well as potentially reducing capacity needs in terms of office space required, as well as the known environmental benefits and time saved from commuting to and from work. 

There could also be improved recruitment opportunities for schools, for example, employers could attract candidates from a wider geographical spread. Employees appear to be prepared to commute longer distances if it is only a few days per week or month, rather than a daily requirement. 

One leader on ASCL’s Task and Finish Group shared their recent experience of recruiting a business leader. The job advert offered flexibility on the hours required, full- or part-time being an option, with some time working from home. The advert secured a good field of potential candidates and a successful appointment. 

What will schools need to consider? 

Staying connected is important; schools will need to find ways to structure and plan opportunities to communicate when staff are off-site. 

Appropriate and reliable technology and Internet connectivity to work away from the office are essential. A significant number of business leaders’ tasks and functions are reliant on access to cloud-based systems. 

It requires adapting to a different way of leading and managing tasks and teams, and employers will need to consider strategies and training to keep employees motivated and connected. 

Is there a legal entitlement? 

Any employee with 26 weeks’ service with the same employer has a right to make a formal flexible working request. 

The government is proposing making it a day one right for all employees in its consultation Making Flexible Working the Default (DBEI, 2021). Many employers are already offering this to their employees. 

With this in mind, if employers in the education sector want to retain and recruit skilled business professionals, they will need to embrace these opportunities to improve their working practices.

Hayley Dunn
ASCL Business Leadership Specialist