'People want a family, a social life': the part-time working revolution

Andrew Stone works four days a week, teaching history and politics to sixth-formers in south London. Or, to be precise, he gets paid for working four days a week; but what happens on the fifth day is more of a grey area.

He first went part-time when his son was born, and initially his day off was spent with the baby. But now that his son is three, Stone usually drops him at nursery in the morning, then comes home to spend the rest of his supposed day off marking or lesson planning.

It’s hardly most people’s idea of a blissful long weekend, and it’s work for which he effectively isn’t paid. But at least this way work doesn’t bleed into the weekends, as it did when he taught full-time. “I understand that there are other jobs where you don’t see the invisible work that goes on behind the scenes,” Stone says. “But the disparity between reality and perception in teachers’ working lives is so much greater.

“The day before the Easter holidays started, I overheard some people talking about teachers and saying, ‘Oh, they work nine to three, then they go down the pub.’ Well, the previous night I’d been up until midnight marking, and I knew that in my Easter holidays I’d be working practically every day, marking the mock exams of hundreds of students as well as planning for the upcoming term.” For him, going part-time is a way of managing not just the ever-growing mountain of paperwork, but the emotional demands of the job. “It’s the guilt, really. There’s constantly more that you could be doing, that you should be doing, as far as your line manager or your head or Ofsted is concerned. You never seem to reach the end, where you’ve achieved all you feel you should have done.” At least this way Stone feels on top of things, rather than worrying about what he might have missed. For him, reduced hours are no longer a way of balancing work and family life, but of managing work itself....more