The Queensland Department of Education fosters an inclusive and high-performing workplace culture that responds to current and future education needs to ensure every student succeeds. Valuing and embracing the different skills, knowledge and experiences each of our staff brings is our approach to inclusion and diversity. We are uniquely positioned, with over 1,200 state schools spanning 7 regions and more than 84,000 employees. Approximately 95 percent of our workforce are in front-line roles.
Retaining and supporting staff who are parents and carers, through greater participation and access to career progression, is a significant driver for gender equality. This is vital to delivering inclusive educational services, as students form gender stereotypes based on their observation of role models, including within the school environment. Students who feel they belong, are understood, and those who have role models like them, have the best chance of succeeding.
The Flexible by Design Framework, launched in December 2020, sets out a vision for every one of our people to have an opportunity to experience a healthy work-life blend, enhancing their wellbeing and performance, leading to better service outcomes: giving all children a great start, engaging young people in learning, creating safe and inclusive workplaces, and building Queensland’s communities.
The COVID-19 health pandemic directly impacted the workforce when remote working and learning was temporarily implemented. Longer lasting impacts will be evident in new ways of working to ensure we adapt to changing contexts now and in the future. The response to the pandemic has re-confirmed the critical role that our people have in the community and the ability of our workplaces to adapt to evolving environments and improve service delivery.
Flexible work is a strategic tool for us to deliver high-quality service by attracting and retaining capable people, and enabling career and service delivery continuity. In an evolving global environment, it is essential our department becomes increasingly adaptable, innovative and responsive.
The framework has flexible work conversations at its core in order to align individual needs with role requirements, service delivery outcomes and team priorities. This approach optimises overall performance and results. Due to the differing needs of employees and role requirements, there is a case-by-case approach. A proactive, open and collaborative approach supports our workforce to continue delivering high-quality service. Conversations might include options such as part-time work, job sharing, telecommuting, compressed and flexible accrued hours, purchased leave, or deferred salary scheme.
Some schools and workplaces have been proactively implementing flexible work and are already realising the benefits. Job sharing is an example of how flexible work is being successfully implemented. Job sharing involves the sharing of duties and responsibilities of one position between 2 or more employees with arrangements flexibly tailored to suit a variety of circumstances, for example 2 x 0.5 positions, or a 0.3 and a 0.7 position. Job sharing across school-based roles is benefitting staff, students and schools – by increasing teaching knowledge and experience in the classroom or in leadership roles (2 heads are better than one), providing opportunity for upward mobility on a part-time basis (e.g. when a principal, deputy or Head of Department job shares with a classroom teacher), retaining valued teachers and leaders as they transition to retirement, and enabling teachers to return from parental leave on a part-time basis. Successful job-sharing partnerships are also providing benefits to staff and their families.
Secondary teachers in successful job sharing arrangements have shared that having the option of flexible work is transformative for them as teachers, but also for their families too. The benefits include time with their children and having the work life balance to do both jobs (at home and at school) to the best of their ability, without feeling like one is lacking.
Job sharing offers an exceptional opportunity to mentor staff in higher duties, providing them with an authentic and enduring leadership experience that benefits the school, the staff and the students. Through offering staff development and mentoring opportunities, job sharing supports continuity in leadership and school culture. Job sharers also note that an important factor in teacher retention is leaders who proactively create a flexible work culture.
Creating inclusive workplace cultures is important to support a diverse workforce that represents the communities we serve. With the ongoing focus on attraction and retention of employees, our department must continue to position itself as an inclusive employer of choice. Being family inclusive is a key strategy to attract capable and agile people, retain valuable teaching staff, and support service delivery continuity and improvement.