7th September 2007 at 01:00
Q Unlike most universities, the one where I did my teacher training has its graduation ceremony in September. My parents want me to attend, but I have just started my first teaching job. Can I ask for time off so early in my career?

A Firstly, congratulations on your teaching qualification and on finding a post. Although it is not in the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document negotiated nationally, there are local agreements that flesh out the extra conditions to cover this type of occurrence. If this is your first graduation, then you should be entitled to a day off to attend, and you might even be paid and not have to take time off without pay. If the school bursar or administrative staff claim not to believe you it's unlikely I know, but might happen in some cases then consult the representative of your professional association who will know your entitlement. Of course, if you have just completed a PGCE and went to your degree graduation last year, you might feel less inclined to take the day off with all the effort you will have to put in to provide cover work for your classes. The rule about graduations doesn't just benefit new teachers like you, it is also there for more senior staff that complete MAs or doctorates and want to attend their graduations. If they have studied part-time for a number of years, it is fitting that they should be able to celebrate their success. As the nature of teaching changes, with extended school days and more summer programmes, it is interesting to reflect how much longer the present rigid arrangements regarding holidays can last. A more flexible approach also might stop the old jibe that teachers are only in it for the holidays, so often made by those who don't understand the directed flexi-time that is teaching work long hours during term-time and then be told when you can have your holidays

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