Rarely Cover FAQ

1st July 2009 at 01:00
From 13-17 July 2009, ChrisKeates, head of the teaching union NASUWT, hosted a special forum to answer questions about the Rarely Cover agreement, which starts in September.

Rarely Cover school policy

Q: Our HT has consulted widely about this. I have been to NASUWT training sessions on the topic and have had a considerable input into the school policy.

The policy we are adopting states that teachers will be expected to cover for absent colleagues only in unforseen circumstances.It then goes on to list the categories of absence that are recognised as forseeable such as trips, long term illness, CPD, medical appointments child illness, jury service etc all of which are covered in theleave of absence policy.We have also carried out an analysis of absence over the previous 12 months and have agreed that as the year did not appear to be exceptional either way that we would recognise the llevel of absence over this period as being `normal' for the school and so that level of absence would be regarded as forseeable.It was also agreed that the school absence would continue to be monitored and the policy reviewed in 12 months taking into account the new data.Everyone seemed happy with that and we shall see how it pans out over the next 12 months. We are now putting togther the school calendar to try and minimise ansence hot spots but still allowing all the usual trips and CPD to happen.

We are also employing an extra cover supervisior and may expect TAs to cover lessons on odd occasions.

A: It is good to hear from schools where there has been consultation on the implementation of rarely cover for 1st September. I am concerned, though, about the definitions which seem to be being used for foreseen and unforeseen absence in respect of the robust systems for the provision of cover proposed.

The key point to remember is that the contractual provision means that teachers and headteachers can be asked to cover only rarely and only in circumstances that are not foreseeable. The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document confirms that cover for an absent colleague is not a good use of the time of a teacher or a headteacher. This being the case, schools need to put into place systems for managing cover which do not rely on teachers or the headteacher at the school.

It is not acceptable for instance for schools to assert that some trips or some CPD activities can only take place if teachers provide cover.

PSHCE days

Q: My school does 4-5 PSHCE days per year for each year group when Teachers can be asked to teach PSHCE to their form during a time that would be normally a Protected planning hour. Is this allowed? Also If my 1 hour of management time ( allocated at one hour per fortnight) is used for this similar PSHCE day, is that allowed?

A: I assume that you are employed on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) terms and conditions in a maintained school. This being the case then I would offer the following response. When you say a protected planning hour if you mean PPA time then this not acceptable. All teachers under STPCD conditions are entitled to a period, regularly timetabled, equivalent to a minimum 10% of their weekly class contact time for planning, preparation and assessment work. This is self directed by the teacher, and is not available for headteachers to direct.

Leadership and management time is less protected. If you have leadership and management responsibility you are entitled, as far as is reasonably practicable, to a reasonable allocation of time within school sessions to support the discharge of those responsibilities, in addition to any PPA time. The allocation of such time by the school must be fair and reasonable taking into account the nature and extent of your responsibilities.

Your school should publish an annual calendar and provide a timetable for each teacher at the start of each year. Normally, any variations to the pattern of the timetable should, therefore, be apparent at the start of each year. You should therefore know well in advance what the timetable pattern will be.

How much leadership time is reasonable?

Q: I currently get one hour per fortnight for being 2nd in science. Imanage everthing new (and old)to KS3 - which is a lot at the moment (new y6 into 7in addition to y7,8 and 9). I am also in charge of ICTand SEN in science, physics KS4 amp; physics KS5. I sort all groups when we move them around and set up the spreadsheets - with gateway "can do tasks" takes me several hours every year. I write tests for y7,8 and 9. I organised y6 taster day before they arrived and the open evening in september for them. I sort books that areissued to y7,8 and 9.

Basically I am doing everything that I used to do as a KS3 coordinator of science plus the work of the person that was 2nd in science before the restructuring due to the TLRs.

I was doing a faculty detention once a fortnight (1 hour) and emergency cover once a fortnight (one hour). I was also expected to have a meeting with the head of faculty once a fortnight. This was my one hour of management time.

I was mentoring ITT student teachers in the faculty, I was given one hour per week to do this. All other support was given in my time including writting their reports.

The head of faculty at the moment was new when I started doing the 2nd in department job and as I see it he is only in charge of exam entries, KS4 Chemistry and KS5 Chemistry and behaviour of students who need telling off in the faculty, he line manages all other staff in science except for the two heads of year. He gets six extra hours for his management time.

The head of faculty sorts out the teaching allocation on the timetable and for September he has ended up with three hours less than his teaching allocation, so is doing 33 hours teaching out of 50. I will be doing 42.

I have spent every hour that I have not been teaching doing faculty stuff in the last term plus about 60 extra hours of my own time in the last fortnight at home setting up faculty stuff for September- new y7 course and new AS course.I asked him to help with the new y7 course and maybe take on half of the chemistry, he said it wasn't his job and as he wasn't teaching y7 next year.

I do get on with the head of faculty but I don't think it is fair. Any suggestions?

A: You are required, based on my assumption that you are employed on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) terms and conditions to work for 195 days per school year, and be available for direction in your work by the Headteacher for 1265 hours over the 195 day period. You can be directed to teach and carry out other duties for 190 days and to carry out other duties on 5 additional days. In addition to this you must work such reasonable additional hours as may be necessary to enable you to discharge effectively your professional duties, including, in particular, planning preparing and assessing pupils work. The extent to which you work these additional hours is a matter for you, not your employer or the headteacher.

You are entitled to a reasonable work-life balance, and you must therefore order and prioritise your work so that you can carry it out in a reasonable amount of time. Your school should have in place a strategy to progressively reduce the working hours of all teachers, including the head teacher, as part of the statutory duties on the headteacher and the governing body. If you are concerned that your workload and working hours are excessive, you should discuss this with you line manager so that any work can be properly prioritised.

If you have management and leadership responsibility you are entitled to a reasonable allocation of time within school sessions to support the discharge of those responsibilities. This is in addition to any entitlement you may have for PPA time. Leadership and management time is not quantified, but of course the allocation of such time by the school must be fair and reasonable taking into account the nature and extent of the responsibilities. If you have a leadership and management responsibility you should also be in receipt of a Teaching and Learning Responsibility Payment or be paid on the Leadership Spine.

Of course, it is not possible and it would not be appropriate here for me to give specific advice on any claim for unfair treatment. However, if you believe that the responsibilities you are carrying are excessive given the level of pay you are receiving in relation to other members of staff you should raise this with your line manager or with your headteacher. You might also want to seek specific advice from your trade union on this matter.

Teachers' leave entitlement?

Q: What is a teachers' entitlement leave?

A: Teachers and Headteachers employed on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document terms and conditions do not have a leave entitlement defined in the regulations. For Headteachers, Deputy Headteachers, Assistant Headteachers and Advanced Skills Teachers there is no definition of the working year either, beyond those proscribed in employment law. For all other teachers there is a defined working year of 195 days. Teachers cannot be required to work on weekends or bank holidays, unless their contract of employment expressly provides for it.

Paid sick leave is defined in the Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales, otherwise known as the Burgundy Book. This depends on the length of service of the teacher and allowing for some discretion by the employer or governing body concerned during and after the fourth year of service is full pay up to 100 working days and half pay for 100 working days.

All other leave of absence for reasons other than sickness, or for maternity leave, are provided for by local agreements reached between the employer at local authority or diocesan (in the case of Church of England or Catholic schools) or Governing Bodies and the Trade Unions. In some areas there are comprehensive agreements for leave of absence other than sickness and maternity. In other areas the agreements may not be so comprehensive. Academies are independent and may well have their own leave arrangements.

Simple guide to Rarely Cover

Q: Please can you give us an idiot's guide, to this new idea without all the jargon. I have heard on the grapevine that events such as funerals may not be granted unless they are taken unpaid -is this right? Furthermore, what is the situation for those schools who do not currently employ cover supervisors?

A: The contractual provision for rarely cover which will take effect from 1st September 2009 means that teachers and headteachers at a school may be required to cover for absence only rarely and only in unforeseen circumstances. The duty on the school's management is to consult with staff and unions in order to establish a robust system which does not require teachers or the headteacher to cover except only rarely. The school's system for managing rarely cover should be capable of dealing with all foreseeable circumstances that might result in planned or unplanned absence.

Since absence is the trigger for cover, schools do need to ensure that their arrangements for managing absence are fair and transparent. No school should seek to worsen any local agreements or provisions in this regard. I would encourage you to check the nature of your local leave of absence policies which should be available in the school or from your local authority.

There is no requirement on schools to employ cover supervisors. What is necessary is that all schools need to have in place a robust system in place to ensure that teachers and the headteacher cover for absent colleagues only rarely. Schools have a range of options available to them to ensure that teachers cover only rarely, including:
a) engaging supply teachers;
b) employing support staff (directly or in collaboration with local schools) in appropriate roles;
c) employing teachers specifically for cover (directly or in collaboration with local schools);
d) using agency staff;
e) employing a teacher on a short-term contract.

Cover supervisors and higher level teaching assistants are for short-term absences only and should not be used as the remedy for the medium or long term absence of a teacher. Medium and long-term absences should be covered by a teacher, possibly through a fixed term appointment or supply teacher.

Getting around the `rarely cover' situation

Q: Our school is a little over staffed in some subjects. This has meant that some of us have gained extra non contacts, for most this is just one or two lessons but for some staff, quite a few. The new policy written by our school states that these extra gained non-contacts will be used first to cover for `unforseen' absences throughout the year. Cover supervisors will be used second (and the list goes on with the priorities in descending order). This seems rather unfair. There have been no changes to our contracts to incorporate any sort of cover role.

Okay so the school is very cleverly getting around the problem, but I would rather have taught one more lesson in my specialism of science than have one non-contact which will more often than not be used by the school in providing cover to ill colleagues across the school.

This seems a step back towards how things were when I qualified as a teacher nine years ago then, and I don't look back on those days of covering colleagues in some subject areas with much joy! Can they really do this to us?

A: The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document will be quite clear that from 1 September 2009 teachers at a school, including the headteacher, may be required to cover only rarely and only in circumstances that are unforeseeable. The only exception to this is in the case of those teachers employed within a school with a contract which explicitly provides for them to be deployed wholly or mainly for the purpose of providing cover.

If a school claims that as a teacher has more non-contact time than some other teachers then it is alright for that teacher to be used to cover in foreseeable circumstances that is incorrect and should be challenged. Furthermore, all schools need to ensure that the burden of providing cover is shared equitably amongst all teachers at the school, including the head teacher.

Gained Time and Rarely Cover

Q: Can a school legitimately claim to have re-written the timetable in order to use teachers gained time (e.g. after Year 11 leave)to cover lessons after the implementation of `rarely cover'? If so, does a copy of this `re-written'timetable need to be available and consulted upon before coming into play?

A: Cover is not an effective use of a teacher's time and teachers, including headteachers, should be required to cover only rarely. It would not be appropriate to use `gained time' for the purpose of providing cover for absence. However, gained time may be used for the following purposes:

Developingrevising departmentalsubject curriculum materials, schemes of work, lesson plans and policies in preparation for the new academic year. This may include identifying appropriate materials for use by supply staff andor cover supervisors;
Assisting colleagues in appropriate, planned team teaching activities;
Taking groups of pupils to provide additional learning support;
Supporting selected pupils with coursework;
Undertaking planned activities with pupils transferring between year groups or from primary schools;
Where the school has a policy for all staff to release them for CPD during school sessions, gained time may be used for such activities.

Schools can review and revise their timetables during the year if there are significant changes (for example a long term absence or a significant educational development), but they should do so well in advance and following consultation with staff and union representatives. Changes to the calendar should be for sound educational reasons and should not be a frequent occurrence.

Rarely Cover and supply teaching

Q: Are you able to clarify the situation aboutRarely Cover and supply teaching. I work for an agency who told me that when"rarely cover" is implemented in September they would be offering the option of Cover supervisor rate to avoid taking work away from us. If a teacher was off for a week we wouuld getthree days at cover supervisor rate then subsequent days at teacher rate.Does this sound right to you?

A: No, this does not sound correct. It is unfortunate that you are having to find your work through such an agency. If you could, you should derive your work as a supply teacher directly, for example, through a local authority or through local contacts with schools. In this way you could expect to be paid in line with the national pay and conditions applicable to teachers, rather than receive a fee for services from an agency. You would also benefit from contributing to the national teachers' pension scheme.

The introduction of the rarely cover provisions should have a beneficial impact for supply teachers as there should be more work available for them. The short term cover provided by cover supervisors is not intended to replace the need for supply teachers, only to provide a breathing space for a school faced with an urgent need for cover, whilst finding a qualified supply teacher, or some other solution, to teach the classes in question.

Rarely cover and Controlled Assessments

Q: I was wondering how are schools dealing with the issue of `Rarely cover and Controlled Assessments'In my school they aregoing to collapse the timetable on eight stateddaysthroughout the 200910school year to accommodate special events and trips.We had these a couple of years ago. Then they they werecalled Timetable Break days when whole year groupsspend the complete day on set projects.

However my concern is that two of these days are on my Health and Social Care days when I have my group for 4 lessons.In planning I expected to lose a couple of these mornings but now it looks like I will be losinganother two complete mornings. TheDeputy Head has asked me to find out how other schools are going to manage this problem.

A: Irrespective of how a school arranges its calendar and timetable, cover is required when the person timetabled to take the class or group is absent. If a school organises activities days such as you describe, then these should be timetabled well in advance. On such days, where the member of staff timetabled to take the class or group for the particular activity is absent, such absence would trigger cover. Your school should organise activities days in such a way that there is no compromise on pupil standards or adverse impact on the workloads of teachers at the school.

Impact on school trips and training courses

Q: We have been warned that the Rarely Cover policy will seriously impact on the provision of extra-curricular activities for students and CPD for teachers, presumably because teachers will not be free to cover for absent colleagues. Is this correct? If not, how are schools expectedable to organise things so teachers aren't covering for absent colleagues?

A: There is no reason for extra-curricular activities or CPD activities within schools to be jeopardised as a result of the change to rarely cover. Each school should consider and properly plan their arrangements for learning outside of the classroom provision and for ensuring access to CPD for staff. By planning these activities well in advance, schools will be better able to manage absence and to meet the requirements for rarely cover.

Cover and Academies

Q: I work at an academy in NE England and we have been informed that because it is an Academy it does not have to follow the union guides on the `rarely cover'. What entitlement do we have to complain if we are still used for cover heavily? At present, in this academic year I have had a total of 73 covers (lessons are 45 mins long though) and complained several times when I went past the 38 hours limit but was told that it does not matter as the academy does not have to abide by union rules or the guidlines in the STCPD. Is this information correct?

A: The answer to this depends on how you came to be working in an Academy. If you transferred across from an existing maintained school, for example, then all your conditions of service should be protected under the TUPE Regulations. Therefore the current limit of 38 Hours in the statutory School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document should apply, and, from 1st September 2009, the rarely cover arrangements will apply.

If on the other hand you have applied for and accepted a post in the academy on the academy's own terms and conditions of employment, assuming that those terms and conditions do not provide a limit on cover, then you may well be expected routinely to provide cover.

The remit for all academy schools is to raise educational standards. I do not believe that any school can do that by requiring teachers or headteachers routinely to cover for absence. The National Agreement signed by the DCSF, Welsh Assembly Government, the National Employers' Organisation and by unionsassociations representing teachers and headteachers confirms that providing cover for absent colleagues is not a good use of a teacher's time. Your academy school Principal should be asked to reconsider the policy of deploying teachers to cover.

Using teachers for cover

Q: Does using teachers with the odd spare lesson here or there to act as time tabled cover supervisors before using non teacher cover supervisors meet the agreement?

A: The guidance on rarely cover that has been published makes clear that teachers and headteachers should not be used to provide cover other than rarely, and only in circumstances that are not foreseeable. Schools should not build systems for managing rarely cover which rely on teachers or the headteacher at the school providing cover. Schools must also ensure that the burden for providing cover is shared equitably across all teachers and the headteacher at the school. Schools have a range of options available to them to ensure that teachers cover only rarely, including:
a) engaging supply teachers;
b) employing support staff (directly or in collaboration with local schools) in appropriate roles;
c) employing teachers specifically for cover (directly or in collaboration with local schools);
d) using agency staff;
e) employing a teacher on a short-term contract.

Cover supervisors and higher level teaching assistants are for short-term absences only and should not be used as the remedy for the medium or long term absence of a teacher. Medium and long-term absences should be covered by a teacher, possibly through a fixed term appointment or supply teacher.

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