Sunday 31 August 2014

Workload and Conditions: a checklist for the start of the year

In the first hectic days of a new school year, teachers will be concentrating on making sure they get to grips with new classes and timetables. It's well worth each union group also taking time to make sure that some essential Conditions of Services issues are sorted out too. A little effort now can smooth things considerably for the year ahead:

PPA  - your planning, preparation and assessment time should be identified clearly (and be, at the very least, not less than 10% of your timetabled teaching time). NQTs are entitled to a further reduction - the NUT has packs for newly-qualified staff that list their entitlements.

School Calendar - you should be told in advance when to expect staff meetings, training days, parents' evenings and other key deadlines like reports and data collection. Once set, these should not be altered without consultation and a reasonable period of notice. If you are unhappy about the proposed calendar, it's important to raise your concerns now - when it's easier to resolve any issues. Remember, NUT guidelines advise that directed-time meetings outside session times should be held on average no more than once a week.

Holiday Dates - Lewisham schools broke up at the end of last term on several different dates. In 2015, the official term dates for our Local Authority end on Monday, July 20. It's well worth asking now to make sure that adjustments are made (perhaps through use of 'twilight sessions') to make sure no school goes beyond the last Friday, July 17.

Directed Time Budget - schools should be providing a breakdown of the allocation of the contractual 1,265 hours of directed time in which teachers, (but not those on the leadership spine) are required  to be available for work. Part-timers should particularly check that their personal allocation is correctly calculated. Directed-time calculations can be a point of debate between unions and management. Lewisham NUT Officers are happy to advise.

Salary statement, pay and appraisal policies. As we explain further inside, this is the first September when the new performance-pay legislation allows schools to start blocking pay progression - although we would hope that Lewisham Heads will not pursue this damaging policy.  If staff are told that they are not receiving the 1% pay rise, or don't receive incremental progression, we strongly urge teachers to appeal - backed up by their colleagues.

This article is taken from the latest Lewisham NUT newsletter (and thanks to City of Leicester NUT for the original article that I adapted from their newsletter!) - it can be downloaded from

Back to the same fear and workload ...

Meanwhile, an article in the Independent that is being widely-shared by teachers on Facebook gives a timely reminder of the stress that will soon be piling on teachers.

Yet another teacher who has left the profession writes that "The culture of fear is endemic .. the fear seems to permeate from above: I've had three head teachers and the thing they've had in common is an inability to change things, as their hands are tied by the same external demands for accountability and good data ...The only way to do a good job is to work breathless 12-plus-hour days every day, which I cannot keep up".

The same story keeps getting told - but with the fear and workload getting worse every year. Isn't it time we put a stop to it?

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