No time to clock off from teaching;Letter

8th October 1999 at 01:00
I AGREE wholeheartedly with the campaign by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers to change open-ended contracts and reduce the number of hours worked by teachers in line with the European Union ruling of no more than 48 hours a week (TES, September 17).

When I started teaching in 1995 I was keen. I wanted to do a good job, to be well prepared and be on top of things. But that meant spending every evening and whole weekends working and never really taking time off. I was worn out and in consequence was not as effective in the classroom as I could be.

I have now learned to reduce the amount of work I do at home, though this is not always easy with the changes being made in education.

I am horrified when I hear of teachers who spend six hours a week just planning for the literacy hour! How are teachers expected to do a good job and "discharge effectively his professional duties...." when they are worn out before they get in front of class?

The full position was only really brought home to me when my headteacher handed me a copy of the Department for Education and Employment's pay and conditions document because I was too ill to attend a meeting at 8pm on a Monday. I was told it was part of my 1,265 allocated hours and was made to feel that I was breaking my contract.

Section 44.3 of that document stated that I should be "available to perform such duties at such times and such places as may be specified by the headteacher..." for a total of 1,265 hours a year.

Therefore, my allocated working hours for the 190 school days I am available to teach are from 8.45am until 12noon and 1pm to 3.30pm. Any additional time does not fall within my allocated hours.

School starts at 8.50am and ends at 3.20pm, so only 15 minutes of these allocated hours are for preparation! Is this "reasonable" and do other headteachers dictate allocated hours like this?

The remainder of the 1,265 hours in my school include the statutory training days, staff meetings and parent consultations, but also include evening events, compulsory after-school clubs and one Saturday a year for a summer gala.

I am angry that my head is able to dictate how I spend my time outside school, in addition to my own preparation, because of the literal wording of the DFEE handbook.

I feel that my time is unmanageable due to what I have to do, what I need to do and what my head says I must do. I understand why I have seen too many excellent colleagues leave the profession altogether.

It is about time that the additional hours that teachers choose to work are respected and acknowledged by headteachers and other educationists, and that the 1,265 hours were only allowed to be allocated in respect to teaching-related duties and not on social and other non-essential duties.

J A Brearley (Mrs)

Glasshoughton

Castleford

West Yorkshire

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