Give us a break

25th May 2007 at 01:00
Staff at the school with no playtimes say they need a breather

FIRST THERE were concerns that pupils would not have a playtime. Now it looks as though teachers, too, may miss out on their breaks at a new pound;46 million academy.

The Thomas Deacon academy in Peterborough attracted national attention this month after it emerged that it was being built without a playground and would not have traditional playtimes.

Pupils will have only a 30-minute break for lunch and 10-minute pauses during lessons at teachers' discretion.

The move was criticised for not allowing children time to run around to let off steam.

But it is the lack of breaks for teachers that will be the subject of meetings scheduled to take place soon between teachers' unions and the academy's management.

Graham Bowes, divisional secretary for the National Union of Teachers in Peterborough, said teachers should have a 50-minute lunch break and a 10-minute morning break to themselves. These should be separate from any children's breaks they supervise.

Mr Bowes said: "There needs to be some element of respite in the day for teachers, and a rota in place to cover break supervisions.

"We are hoping negotiations will come to a good conclusion."

Dr Alan McMurdo, chief executive of the Thomas Deacon academy, said his teachers would get "appropriate" breaks and guaranteed planning and preparation time. After-school meetings would also be slimmed down.

"The unions have been widely consulted, and that is reflected in a generous programme for staff," he said.

Like any employer, schools are bound by working time regulations, but these only allow for a 20-minute break every six hours. The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document, which is not obligatory in academies, states that teachers have a right to a "break of reasonable length" in the middle of the school day.

The NASUWT teachers' union said it intervened about 12 times a year at schools where teachers said they were being shortchanged. Disputes usually occurred when teachers were promised earlier leaving times if they agree to earlier starts and shorter lunch breaks.

Unions are also continuing talks with the management of the Thomas Deacon academy over teachers' pay.

The TES revealed last year that the school is hoping to lure high-flying teachers with the promise of inner-London wages.

But staff would be required to work 15 days extra a year, giving exam preparation and booster classes.

The NUT advised members transferring from three local schools to stick to their contracts, fearing an "erosion" of their pay and conditions.

The school, sponsored by Perkins Engines and the charitable Deacons Trust, will open in September and will specialise in maths and science.

The building, designed by Norman Foster, has been compared with "a giant blancmange".

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