The purpose of this advice is to summarise teachers’ conditions of service, as set out in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).

The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) applies to teachers in England and Wales who are employed by a local authority or by the governing body of a foundation or voluntary aided school.

It may apply to teachers in academies in England and in independent schools which use the STPCD working time provisions in teachers’ contracts, and will do so where teachers have transferred when a school in England has adopted academy status.

How many days per year does a full-time teacher have to work?

A full-time teacher must be available for work on 195 days. The teacher may be required to teach pupils on 190 of these days.

Are there any limits to working hours for full-time teachers?

The number of hours for which teachers can be directed to teach or undertake other professional duties is subject to a limit of 1,265. On top of this teachers are expected to work ‘reasonable additional hours’ to fulfil their professional responsibilities. All teachers are also subject to the provisions of the Working Time Regulations which seek to place a 48-hour limit on the average working week.

Are leadership group teachers covered by these working time limits?

Head teachers and deputy and assistant head teachers are not subject to the working time limits of 190/195 days and 1,265 hours.  However, governing bodies and head teachers are required to have regard to the need for a satisfactory work/life balance for all teachers.

Speak to your workplace rep and other colleagues if you feel you are working excessive hours. It is unlikely that you are the only one to feel this way. Head teachers and governing bodies must have regard to the need for a satisfactory work/life balance for all teachers and collectively you can make positive changes to reduce your workload. 

How do these limits affect part-time teachers?

Part-time teachers are required to be available for work for the same percentage of 1,265 hours as the percentage of full-time pay that they receive.

What is directed time?

Directed time is when teachers are directed by their head teacher to be at work and available for work. This is a maximum of 1,265 hours per academic year, spread over 195 days. Directed Time has not been removed or suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Teachers can be required to teach on 190 days, the maximum length of the pupil year.  They can also be required to work a further five non-teaching (usually inset) days, the hours for which count towards the 1,265 hour limit. Part-time teachers work the prorated equivalent according to the fraction of full time pay they receive (see below).

The following must be part of directed time for full and part time teachers: Teaching time, PPA time, break times (but not lunchtimes, when teachers can’t be required to work), cover, parents’ evenings, after school meetings, INSET/CPD and anything else which teachers are “directed” to do, and which requires their professional skills.

The full list is in sections 51 & 52 of the 2020 STPCD.

What are directed time calendars?

All schools should have a calendar of the activities which make up teachers’ directed time – published in the summer term for the next academic year and consulted on with staff via trade unions. They should also give each teacher their own personal directed time calendar showing their individual commitments.

Schools should not allocate the maximum 1,265 hours to each teacher – they are advised to allow a contingency in order to cover unexpected additional events and commitments (though these should be rare and subject to consultation with staff).

Can governing bodies make changes to the times of school sessions and lengthen the school day?

Yes. In Wales, regulations require consultation to take place and notice to be given of changes.

In England, there are no longer any regulations which govern how such changes are dealt with by schools but the NEU will always press for full consultation and adequate notice to be given.

Can any teacher be required to undertake mid-day supervision?

No teacher can be required to do this under their STPCD contract of employment as a teacher. However, if a teacher volunteers to do so, they are entitled to a free school meal. Some schools also offer to pay teachers undertaking lunch duties on a separate contract.  Please check your contract of employment if you are a teacher in an academy, independent school or other establishment.  The NEU’s position is that no teacher should be required to undertake mid-day supervision.  If you are required to do so please contact your school rep or local officer.

Is there a right to a lunch break?

Yes, any teacher who works for more than one school session on any school day must be given a break of ‘reasonable length’ between sessions or between the hours of 12 noon and 2pm. Leadership group teachers are also entitled to such a break, as close to the middle of the school day as is reasonably practical. Teachers cannot be required to attend management-convened meetings during their lunch break.

Are all teachers entitled to planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time and, if so, how is the entitlement calculated?

All teachers who teach pupils are entitled to PPA time, set as a minimum of ten per cent of their timetabled teaching time. Some will have more than ten per cent, and the union supports PPA time of 20 per cent.

Can PPA time be allocated before the morning session or after the afternoon session?

No, it must take place during the time in which pupils are taught.

Can PPA time be used for cover?

No, it must not be used in this way and, equally, teachers cannot be directed to undertake specific activities during this time.

Should teachers be reimbursed PPA time if they lose it, for example, because of a school trip or another one-off event?

Yes, the minimum entitlement must be maintained in these circumstances. This also applies to part time workers. There is no reimbursement, however, for loss of PPA time through sickness absence or leave of absence.

Are teachers with leadership and management responsibilities entitled to time to undertake their responsibilities?

Yes, there is an entitlement to leadership and management time. Although there is no minimum amount, teachers should be provided with a level that is commensurate with their responsibilities.

Do teachers have to cover for absent colleagues?

Teachers can only be required to cover ‘rarely’. This means in circumstances which were not foreseeable. A certain level of sickness absence, perhaps dependent on the time of year, is entirely foreseeable so a colleague’s absence on sick leave is not a good enough reason for requiring a teacher to provide cover.

Is ‘gained time’ part of directed time and can it be used for cover?

Gained time does form part of directed time and the STPCD. The ‘rarely cover’ provision applies equally during gained time.

Can teachers be required to undertake tasks of a clerical or administrative nature?

If the task does not call for the exercise of a teacher’s professional skills or judgement, it cannot be routinely required of a teacher. You can read more about this area here.

Can teachers be required to invigilate examinations?

They cannot be required to invigilate external examinations, apart from practical/oral examinations in their own subject area. They may wish to be present at the start and end of examinations in order to deal with issues/questions that may arise.

For information on examinations and assessment in 2021 please go here.

Can part-time teachers be required to go to work on a day when they are not normally required to work?

No, this is expressly prohibited by the STPCD. However, the head teacher may request attendance at certain meetings or training. It should be made clear that this can be refused, but if you wish to do so, you should receive either remuneration or time off in lieu for that day.  Head teachers should consider part-time workers’ commitments and responsibilities outside of work. Request to attend meetings and training should be reasonable. Where it is not possible to comply with the request, alternative arrangement should be made to avoid a detrimental impact on part-time teachers.

What we say and further advice

When you read through this advice you may have questions about what happens in your particular school or workplace, and there may be collective issues that affect other members. In most circumstances, you should initially discuss the matter with your workplace rep, as they will know whether similar concerns have been raised by other members. If you do not have a rep at the moment, it would be a good idea to get members together to elect one. See details on how to become a rep or speak to your local Branch Secretary.

Although you may sometimes feel that you are the only person affected by or concerned about a particular issue, in reality this is seldom the case. Any difficulties you may experience are likely to be linked to wider conditions at your workplace and as a member of the NEU you have the advantage of being able to act collectively with your colleagues. This should give you the confidence of knowing that you have the weight of the union behind you.

Male and female teacher chatting
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