Swot Shop

28th September 2001 at 01:00
READ YOUR contract yet? Most people don't. They presume that life will be trouble free and that heads and governors are warm and friendly people who have their best interests at heart. Well, warm and friendly they may be but employers have the school's best interests at heart - not yours. So a glance at the small print is a good idea.

Teachers' conditions of service are set out in a document called the 'burgundy book', a weighty tome updated each year in the annual pay round. It says that teachers have to work a 195-day year, broken down into 190 contact days and 5 professional development days.

There is a maximum working time of 1,265 hours, which suggests a six-and-a-half-hour day. Most schools run a 25-hour teaching week, so heads can direct staff to work for one and a half hours after every school day. Most don't, but teachers cannot refuse to attend after-school events unless they can show that their 1,265 hours have all been taken.

There is no limit put on out-of-hours working. Teachers are expected to do as much marking and preparation as is compatible with the reasonable demands of the job. Interestingly, the contract does not mention holidays at all - there is simply time when teachers are not in school.

Teachers are not required to supervise pupils in the midday break, but they can be required to supervise pupils before and after school. So bang goes your plan to skive off bus duty.

Days off in school time - for births or bereavements, for example - are allowed and may be expanded upon by local conditions of service set out by the governing body. These may also cover other matters such as dress code. But local conditions of service cannot be imposed: heads and governors must consult, and teachers could challenge changes using a school's grievance procedure.

Finally, there is no clause in the contract that says that children have to be nice to you - or you to them.

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