Ask Tom

Teacher, TES Connect blogger and behaviour expert Tom Bennett puts on his agony uncle hat and answers your education questions

Previously, when students left after exams in the summer, we were able to get ourselves ready for next year. My headteacher has ended that and is filling our free periods with pointless tasks. One of my colleagues spoke up and was told he should not expect a "free ride" over the summer term. Is there anything we can do to change the headteacher's mind?

A teacher, via email to

Sure there is. In maintained schools in England and Wales, the Workload Agreement guarantees that 10 per cent of your time will be set aside for planning, preparation and assessment, but that might not apply in academies and free schools. If the headteacher's demands are unreasonable then you need to make a case. He is perfectly within his rights to direct his staff towards particular tasks. So if you want to contest this then you have to indicate what you would be doing instead of following his master plan and why it's more important. This is going to take a lot of organisation, but if you coordinate between teachers and departments you should be able to provide evidence for your alternative plans. He may still say no, of course.

I have been teaching for the past five years in the same school and I fancy a change. An opportunity has come up in Dubai and I am tempted, but people have told me that teaching in Dubai is almost treated as a holiday on your CV and would reflect badly should I want to return to teach in the UK. Is this true?

A teacher, via email to

I have never heard teaching abroad being described as a holiday. Something of this nature would be seen as an asset by many schools, indicating that you are ambitious, versatile and open to new challenges. Of course, there will always be interviewers who will see such things as a gap-year project, but do you really want to work for anyone with such a lack of vision?

I have just started a new job at a primary school in a really rough area. On a single day, for example, one child was beaten by another so badly that we had to call an ambulance, a teacher was attacked by a pupil and two girls were found to have been stealing. Other staff say it has been unusually bad this term because the headteacher has been spending a lot of time at a neighbouring school, but I am worried I am just not the type of teacher that can work in these circumstances. Should I leave?

A teacher, via Twitter to @tes

It depends. Is this the kind of school where you want to work? Some people aim for these environments, driven by a desire to reach out to those in the most difficult circumstances. But even then, I would advise staying only if the school is well-run and the management team are completely focused on what they need to do. You will know yourself if this job is your ambition. My guess is that it isn't, and it sounds as though the school doesn't have the captain it needs to conquer its challenges. A school that can't keep its children or staff safe doesn't deserve to have either.

Tom teaches full-time at Raine's Foundation School in London.

Do you agree with his advice? To have your say or ask a question, visit www.tesconnect.comasktom or email

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