Ask Tom

22nd August 2014 at 01:00
Teacher, TES blogger and behaviour expert Tom Bennett puts on his agony uncle hat and answers your education questions

The one-upmanship has started. Some teachers are claiming they have been in for three weeks of the six-week break, others for two. I was planning on a rushed three days at the end. What's the average, do you think?

A teacher via Twitter to @tes

I have never seen any hard data on this, just cute surveys. We teachers work extremely hard in term time, and I say we need the time off. I think teachers are mad to do weeks of work when they should be enjoying themselves. Summer is for recharging, so that in September we can charge back in. I know anxious workaholics who can't disconnect in August; by December they're toast. I also know teachers who stroll in on Day 1 looking for their timetable. I'm a day-before man because I've done 10 tours of duty. But everyone should take leave for their sanity's sake.

A few of us have been asked to run some CPD days for the rest of the school. I'm happy to do it, but it is a hell of a lot of extra work. And considering the money that was paid to people who have given talks to us before, should I be asking for some cash for my time?

A teacher, via email to

Tricky. Schools expect people to get involved in many extracurricular activities, often for no material benefit. Such is the nature of what should be a collaborative profession. For one-offs like this, it is hard to see a school treating it like a permanent responsibility. Most people get involved with things of this nature because it is an opportunity to develop or do something they enjoy. Or it can be naked careerism. I don't think you'll get far with a cash request, but you can always say no if it is too much work.

My son is graduating from university in November and I have requested time off but my headteacher is refusing. Is she within her rights to do so?

A teacher, via

Headteachers don't have any duty to give time off to staff, although a good one should do so in order to manage a team well. If the headteacher has decided that the school can't spare you, then you don't have much right to protest. You need to try persuading rather than demanding. Granting leave is one of those discretionary powers that are reserved for leadership, and I'm afraid it is part and parcel of signing a contract. Of course, you could just go anyway. But I wouldn't risk it.

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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