The Issue - Extended schools

23rd July 2010 at 01:00
With hundreds of schools staying open this summer to boost pupil performance, are teachers being unfairly pressured into giving up their hard-earned holidays?

From humble beginnings, the concept of extended schools has now become fully entrenched. It may be the holidays, but this summer hundreds of schools will remain open. But there are questions over whether teachers can be asked - or feel pressured - into working during this period.

At City Academy in Bristol, the summer holidays are still sacrosanct, but other breaks are fair game. For the past seven years, it has asked teachers to take well-attended booster Year 11 and post-16 classes for at least one morning during holiday time.

"Teachers and pupils need a break over the summer so that they come back refreshed for the new school year," says Ray Priest, the principal. "But we see every other holiday as an opportunity to boost performance."

The voluntary scheme earns staff about pound;25 an hour. A similar project, which targets just the core subjects of English, maths and science, also takes place on Saturday mornings throughout term time. A 10-week course of Saturdays will typically earn teachers about pound;1,000.

"Most people do between one to four mornings during the holidays, which isn't that much seeing as they get 13 weeks of holiday a year," explains Mr Priest. "There is no pressure, but it's a bit of extra money that helps them pay for their holiday."

But some teachers can feel under pressure to agree to even voluntary schemes, says Martin Freedman, head of pay and conditions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. He says that while teachers are rarely overtly told to do the extra work, they may feel they have no choice.

"Senior staff can make it very clear that a teacher's decision to refuse may go against them in the future," says Mr Freedman. "We have pursued grievance cases on behalf of our members for this, although most end up being resolved informally."

Under the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions (STPC) document, classroom teachers can work a maximum of 1,265 hours over the course of 195 days a year (including five non-contact days), which cannot include weekends. No such limitations are placed on those on the leadership pay spine, though.

There is also nothing in law to prevent teachers working from home or coming into school of their own volition during the holidays. Teachers are still working in excess of 50 hours a week, according to the annual survey of teachers' workload.

Ultimately, nothing overrides the STPC document, says Deborah Simpson, principal officer for the teachers' union Voice. The final decision to work or "be on duty" during the holidays must lie with each individual teacher.

Extra money, time off in lieu or simply volunteering may be incentive enough. But teachers who feel they are being coerced into working more hours should contact their union.

TEACHERS CAN .

  • Work 1,265 hours over 195 days a year.
  • Not be forced to work excess hours during weekends or holidays.
  • Voluntarily take part in out-of-hours activities.
  • Receive pound;25-pound;30 for teaching lessons outside of normal hours, based on payments for the Government's One to One Tuition Programme.
  • Contact their union if they feel that a refusal to take part will be held against them.

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