Missing the resignation deadline
I have got an interview next week for a job outside teaching. But my Head of Department says that as I’ve missed the May 31 resignation deadline, I can’t leave until December 31. No employer will wait that long for me!
Yes, that’s the theory, I’m afraid. And usually the practice too.
There are three resignation dates for teachers in maintained schools in England and Wales: October 31, to leave December 31, February 28 (or 29) to leave April 30, and May 31 to leave August 31. In academies and free schools, as well as in independent schools, these dates may be different, so you should check your contract.
So if you have just missed the May deadline, then in theory it is over six months until you can leave. If you were in an independent school, where often notice to leave has to be in by the first day of term, in theory you could be required to stay from mid April until December, eight and a half months.
Few or no employers would wait that long for a new employee.
That is the contractual situation. You missed the deadline, your contract says that you have to stay. But you can be released earlier if the governors agree, and the governors will normally agree if the Head tells them that they should.
So you need to persuade your Head to release you earlier.
Even early in July, when serving teachers in permanent posts cannot apply, schools generally do not have too much difficulty in filling their vacancies, as there are plenty of applicants. Unless you are a physics graduate teaching a large A-level and AS cohort, the school should not find you impossible to replace in half a term.
There will be many NQTs still looking for posts, as well as teacher returners, those doing supply, and those on temporary contracts such as maternity cover. None of these have to give notice, so could all be available to take your post. And be delighted to do so!
If she or he has any sense, your Head will not wish to have an unwilling colleague in school next term.
Far better to have a new, keen teacher, all bright eyed and bushy tailed at having got a job. Going and explaining your situation is thus possibly going to get you a Fast Exit Pass, as long as you are only a few days over the deadline.
But if it doesn’t get you released, then you could consider seeing an employment lawyer. Imposing such a very long period of notice – over half a year – could be seen to be an unreasonable contract if you just miss the deadline by just a few days. No guarantee that you'll win this, as both your union and the NAHT/ASCL will say that a contract is a contract. The small print at the back of your house insurance sometimes allows for expenses for legal disputes with your employer. Check if yours does, because it might come in useful. But don't rely on this. Much better to talk things through with the Head and see if persuasion will work.
But remember this: your Head does NOT have to allow you to leave earlier, and at times other than the summer deadline (i.e. for a January or Easter start) would have a very good basis for refusing.
Even in the summer, he or she can, and may well do, refuse to release you, and you are likely to have not much success in challenging this decision.
If what you want to do is to leave on medical grounds, you could look at the letter suggested here, changing it as necessary to suit your circumstances:
Asking to leave earlier than your contractual leaving date