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 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, 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 and, on 190 of these, the teacher may be required to teach pupils.

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.

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.

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.

Are leadership group teachers covered by these working time limits?

No, however governing bodies and head teachers must have regard to the need for a satisfactory work/life balance for all teachers.

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

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.

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. 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.

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.

What we say and further advice

When you read through this advise 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

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.

Related content

Advice ballot texting
Flexible working

Your rights to ask for flexible working, i.e. a change in your terms and conditions relating to the hours you work, the times you work or whether you work at home for all or part of the week.

Advice Biology class
HLTAs and cover supervisors

NEU advice giving a brief synopsis of the advent of the Workload Agreement, and the ‘dos and don’ts’ for HLTAs and cover supervisors.

Advice Primary school girl explaining her work to her teacher
Support staff term-time working

An initial section of guidance on term-time working has now been agreed between the local government employers and the recognised trade unions