Can I go to my sister's wedding?

14th July 2013 at 01:00

 Can I go to my sister's wedding?

My sister’s getting married eight days before Easter, and I’m bridesmaid. She wants me to be there all day Thursday and Friday, for the hen night, and to help out with the final arrangements. 

Friends tell me that the school won’t pay me if I take these days off! That seems so unfair, that I have to lose money to go to a wedding.


How lovely to be a bridesmaid, and especially so for a sister. You must be very pleased. But why on earth did you think that you would be paid if you had two days off school for a social event? After all, your salary is in return for you being in school teaching pupils to ensure their learning and progress, rather than at a hen night or wedding dress rehearsal.

Sorry to sound so harsh about this, but surely you can see this point of view?


So, no, you will not normally get paid for this. Sorry.


You actually have a bigger problem than whether or not you would get paid. 


The main question is: will you even be allowed to take the time off?


Some people believe that if you take unpaid leave, you have a right to absent yourself whenever you like.  I'm afraid that this just is not true. You couldn’t run a school, or a shop, a restaurant or any other business if staff just made their own decision about taking time off, paid or unpaid.  You may be extremely fortunate and in your Conditions of Service you have a couple of  days a year for personal reasons.  This may be so in just a handful of schools, so don't get your hopes up.  That sort of agreed absence is normally for bereavement or a child being ill, to allow you a day or so to make arrangements for someone else to take care of the patient.  Not for weddings.


So what next? To make it easier for the Head to agree to letting you go, solve the problem before you ask. This is a general strategy for anything special that you want to ask for. 


Don’t present the Head with a problem, present him or her with a solution!


The Head’s main concern of course will be ensuring that your absence has no negative impact on learning, so you will need to do some undercover work before going to make your request. 

Find out by looking at the timetable who would be free to teach your classes while you’re away, and ask them, in confidence, if they would agree to giving up their PPA time for you that week, in exchange for you doing the same or, preferably, more for them later. It might well mean that later in the year, you have several weeks with no PPA time at all, yourself, as you will be doing the pay-back for your colleagues, but it should be worth it if it means that you can go to the wedding.

And to help them, and ensure that learning takes place as usual, you will of course provide full lesson plans that fit in with your short-term and medium-term planning. This, too, will reassure your Headteacher.

You can then go to the Head armed with a clearly set out plan of exactly how your classes would be covered appropriately and following your planning, so that the learning can continue with no hiatus.  


But do remember that there is no right to time off for this kind of event, even unpaid, and be prepared to grin and bear it if the Head says "No".


Best wishes