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The Issue - Contracted hours

Features | Published in TES Newspaper on 7 May, 2010

When Michael Gove proposed Saturday working for teachers in a conference speech, he was greeted with laughter. But could the practice become widespread?

Conference season isn’t known for generating laughs. But Michael Gove’s speech at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers union conference proposing Saturday openings for schools drew wry laughter from the delegates.

“Children who come from homes where parents don’t have the resources to provide additional stretch and cultural experiences - there are benefits in having those children in the learning environment, in school, for longer,” he said, before adding that this would need the “enthusiastic support of teachers” to work.

Cue the laughter.

Mr Gove wasn’t clear on whether these Saturday schools would teach the normal curriculum or provide extra-curricular tutoring in sport or music, for example.

He cited the Knowledge is Power Programme (KIPP) in the US, in which teachers make themselves available to pupils out of hours via their mobile phones, and schools are open from early morning to provide support for children who may not receive any at home.

Regardless of what is taught, working on Saturdays would represent a significant change to the profession. Teachers are currently contracted to work 1,265 hours over 195 days a year - 190 for pupil contact and five allocated for in-service training.

Time in lieu is supposed to be set aside for any additional responsibilities. Teachers are already more likely to do overtime than any other profession, according to a Trades Union Congress analysis of an Office for National Statistics survey. More than half of teachers work unpaid overtime according to the TUC analysis and more than one in five works an average of 19 extra hours a week, more than lawyers or health service managers.

Nansi Ellis, head of education policy at the ATL, says the union would not support the idea of teachers working on Saturdays. “Obviously (extra- curricular activities) are things that can be beneficial,” she says. “But whether it’s the place of teachers to be providing them is the concern.”

Many private schools already open at the weekend for extra-curricular activities and some academies have opted to open on Saturday mornings. For National Challenge schools under threat of closure, opening at weekends gives staff extra time to try to improve pupil attainment.

Staff at National Challenge schools can volunteer to work on Saturday mornings and are paid up to £100 a session, but unions warn that it is not sustainable.

“There are issues for teachers who want to have a family life, and it compromises a work-life balance,” says Ms Ellis.

Saturday opening is not just a Conservative idea. Alan Johnson, when he was education secretary, proposed Saturday classes to help both struggling children and gifted and talented pupils, although the suggestion was dropped when it became clear the cash would not be forthcoming. Headteachers who have opened their schools on Saturdays, such as the Gateway Academy in Tilbury, Essex, claim the additional enrichment activities have substantial benefits for the pupils.

Although heads could not force teachers to work on Saturdays, it could become part of the school culture. For this reason, the proposal was met with cynicism by teachers on the TES online forums.

“Oh yes, that lovely kind of volunteering which severely damages your career prospects … if you don’t step forward,” writes one teacher.

Teachers may be obliged to work on Saturdays in the future, but they cannot be forced to work over the contracted number of hours. Heads should negotiate how these are allocated through the week.

What are your rights?

  • You are entitled to time off during the week to make up for working on Saturdays.
  • Make a note of the hours you work, and inform your head if you are doing more than you are contracted to do each week.

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Comment (15)

  • If we could provide a quality teaching throughout the week, there would not be a necessity to teach on Saturdays !! I think the solution is to improve the (state) schools organisation as a whole.


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    7 May, 2010

    MilaMoya Maiko

  • Being a teacher, you need the weekend rest to be function to your full potential on the weekday.

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    8 May, 2010


  • Teachers use the weekends to plan and collect resources. Working on a Saturday would destroy their own family lives. Their own children losing the support, encouragment and experiences they need. Perhaps we should look to other professionals to provide this support, nursery nurses for instance could be given the challange of giving these children the provision they need.

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    9 May, 2010


  • Solutions
    1. Import the teachers in like the NHS does for Doctors at the weekends?
    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...............No to that one
    2. Increase the number of Cover Supervisors ............ even more unqualified staff to plan for and even more self directed learning for our children.
    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh .............No to that one
    3. Increase the number of TAs who take whole classes ..................
    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh............... Already outraged that they do not get paid for what they do
    Are they still around ... .heard they have been replaced.......... ????

    51,000 of us
    + 3,000 NQTs
    YES ..... WE WILL DO IT

    So stop moaning permanant teachers........... you are not indispensible

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  • I would prefer to have my children taught by a teacher who can spell permanent.

    As for working on Saturdays, why not Sundays as well? And whilst we are on the subject, why not get rid of the school holidays altogether?

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    9 May, 2010


  • Billybong

    Spot on with your comments!

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    10 May, 2010


  • Don't you ever see children who go to private school on a saturday and think...poor kids / evil parents?
    Would kids really like to go to school on Saturdays, they'd miss the cartoons.

    So let's all leave our families behind and join the baby-sitting brigade.

    Good idea farming it out to supply. We premamenant teachers could be indispensable for triple the money and half the effort too.

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    10 May, 2010


  • I'm not sure exactly how much money you think supply teachers earn mapleandmable, but I assure you it is not three times the wage you do! I think you might be getting confused with the sum that your school pays to the agency and the sum that is actually paid to the teachers. Firstly, we do not have sick pay or holiday pay, we also have uncertain work patterns. We have no guarantee whether we will be working any days in the week and thus recieve any wage. We are expected to fill in for whole days with sometimes no more than 10 mins prep time and no planning left in a class we have no idea of. They say not all supply teachers make great class teachers but I assure you not all class teachers make great supply.

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    11 May, 2010


  • Stop moaning. Surely it's choice to do supply?

    Teachers work hard enough as it is and at weekends already, catching up with paperwork, planning, resources, marking etc. Weekends are when parents should be doing their job, as parents! The problem is that all responsibility has been taken away from parents and more and more is put into the curriculum. It's the parents that need teaching how to be parents. Do that and then we (teachers) won't have to do everyone else's job as well as our own, particularly demanding one, on our days off.

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    12 May, 2010


  • Libra what are you talking about. Supply - Choice! ha ha! I have no choice - like everyone else I have to keep a roof over my head somehow. I am an NQT with 2 dependants searching for a permanent post (competing with 40+ applicants for each vacancy) and find myself doing supply due to necessity. I think it should be a compulsory part of teacher training. The uncertainty of whether you are going to be working or not, then the phone call, the drop everything and go, then walking into a class full of children you do not know and be expected to teach children without any planning or resources left for you. Yeah its a doddle! NOT! I am gaining a wealth of experience whilst at times being treated as a leper by permanent staff members. Yeah its great fun! Choice - no. An Education - Yes!

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    12 May, 2010


  • As a supply teacher for the past 6 years after being a full time teacher for 16 years I can assure you that supply is not as easy as being a full time teacher .I am usually called in because a class teacher has gone of sick with stress,so I have to pick up the disatisfied classes.I have to completely remark entire sets of coursework (1 top set and 1 middle) and work out complete new schemes of work as the schools I have worked in say "year 9 are doing persuasive techniques so what do you want to do with them".I am not complaining but feel some teachers do not appreciate us.

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    12 May, 2010


  • I have been a supply and a class teacher, like lots of other teachers out there. Supply and permanent are just different. Equally hard in different ways. Let's not backbite. Teaching is both great and trying, however often you do it!!

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    13 May, 2010


  • My objection was to other posters who seem to think that supply work is a highly paid, soft option that people do through choice. The attitude of several permanent staff that I have come across is one of superiority and disdain. Supply work for many is (1) not highly paid, it's the agencies who rake it in; (2) not an easy job working with children whose names, abilities and needs you don't know; and (3) not a choice. The issue at the heart of this strand is whether it should be supply teachers who work on saturdays. When would we get to see our own children as they are at school during the week? Libra wants parents to do the parenting bit (with which I totally agree) however, as teachers (supply or otherwise), when will we get that chance if we are going to have work weird and wacky hours?

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    13 May, 2010


  • going back to the main point of the article - I do work on Saturdays already. Like many teachers, during the week I get in early in the morning (8ish), leave late at night (7.30ish), have little in the way of a break during the day, and take back at least 10 hours worth of work at the weekend. In the exam period I run revision classes during the Easter holiday / May half term, and frequently run coursework catch up clubs etc on a Saturday, not to mention ECAs etc.

    When will this outdated vision of teachers drinking coffee and reading the Guardian in the staffroom for most of the day (and apparently frequently during classtime) finally disappear?

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    13 May, 2010


  • Isn't it all part of the wider campaign to make sure teachers either retire early (reduction in pension) or die shortly after retirement?
    We are fools to ourselves. The trouble is, there are always teachers out there who need the money, so accept extra 'booster' classes or G&T, then working in holidays and Saturdays looks to be OK. Suddenly, it becomes like the revision classes and we're expected to do it for nothing. DON'T DO IT!

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    13 May, 2010


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