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No balance for support staff

Balancing work and social life has been an issue for teachers for many years. Heads and teachers have now negotiated conditions of service that require heads to ensure any hours worked by teachers over the statutory 1,265 hours' directed time are "reasonable". And the same goes for members of the leadership group and advanced skills teachers who are not subject to the 1,265 hours. This entitlement also applies to heads. Each individual head and teacher will have a view on whether this has worked for them in practice.

Following the Work and Families Act 2006, support staff and teachers who have children now have more possibilities for balancing their work and family responsibilities. The act made significant improvements to maternity leave and pay, removing the 26-week qualifying period and giving automatic entitlement to additional maternity leave for those who qualify for ordinary maternity leave. Statutory maternity pay was also extended.

"Keeping in touch" days have been introduced, enabling staff on maternity leave to undertake some work without forfeiting maternity pay or bringing the maternity leave to an end. A mother can agree with her head that she works for up to 10 days of her leave. This includes training or any other activity that enables the member of staff to keep in touch with the school. Staff with adopted children have similar rights.

This is in addition to the rights of a parent of children under 6 to request flexible working hours and changes in responsibilities.

The groups who miss out on all this are support staff without children, who have neither teachers' conditions of service or the rights of all staff with children. They have to rely on their contracts, and I know of no local authority nor school that has written such clauses into this group's contracts. If you have such an enlightened contract, I would like to know about it. Email me care of

Chris Lowe, Former headteacher and trades union legal adviser.

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