NUT members at Morningside Primary School have secured some significant gains after a strong 17 to 1 ballot in favour of strike action helped make sure that a new “Work-Life Balance Policy” was adopted by the school.
The policy - drafted jointly by Peet Naude, the school NUT rep, Mick Regan, the Hackney NUT Secretary, and myself – contains provisions that should provide some real protection against excessive workload.
Importantly, as well as clearly defining the 1265 hours of directed time and confirming NUT policy over meetings and observations, the policy also sets down limits to the additional ‘undirected’ hours that are mainly responsible for the 50+ hour weeks that so many teachers endure. It includes a demand that all activities are time-audited and that no new initiative is introduced without considering their impact on work-life balance.
Key points include:
• Following consultation, a regular calendar of meetings, deadlines and events will be provided to staff so that they can plan ahead and adjust their workload so as to help maintain a work-life balance.
• As part of our commitment to achieving a reasonable work-life balance, we agree to regularly audit staff to estimate the amount of additional hours that teachers are typically carrying out per week. Where an audit shows that a particular policy, format or initiative is contributing to excessive workload, or when it is raised by trade unions on behalf of staff, the school will consult and review the policy, format or initiative to seek to reduce workload pressures.
• We recognise that NUT policy seeks to limit the overall number of hours worked to a 35 hour week and commit to seeking to reduce overall working hours to this limit.
• Teachers must be able to exercise their own professional judgement and be able to use the need to maintain a work-life balance as a legitimate reason to decide to limit the time taken on carrying out a task. For example, a teacher could decide to limit the number of books that they were able to mark in detail within a whole class set of books.
• Properly conducted exit interviews, or use of exit questionnaires, when staff resign to find out if problems with work-life balance led to the resignation.
• Consultation between the head or deputy head and NQTs, new appointees, and those promoted internally, 6 weeks after they take up their new post, to explore work-life balance issues and to see if the school can offer further support.
• All new initiatives will be fully discussed with teachers and consulted upon before being implemented. Those consultations should include an audit of the working hours that might be required to implement the initiative and, therefore, consideration of what other tasks or initiatives will need be reduced or withdrawn in order to maintain a reasonable work-life balance.
• Teachers will not be expected to check email after 5 O’Clock Friday or during holiday periods.
• A yearly audit of planning to make it more streamlined
• Teachers not expected to take work home at week-ends
• Any PPA lost due to school closures, illness of cover teacher etc to be repaid within 3 weeks.
As with any policy, the key will now be to make sure it is implemented in practice. It is certainly a policy that could be used as a model for other schools to take on and adapt. Do get in touch if you would like a full copy of the agreed policy sent to you.