Directed Time – my story

Twenty or so years ago, when completing my NPQH (spell out), I presented to a group of head teachers in the North Stockton Education Action Zone. I did not make friends as I talked about the management of induction for new staff, and unpaid, unfair and improper expectations on new staff. Every secondary school head teacher there expected their newly appointed, but not yet on the books or getting paid, teachers to:

  • take part in summer term transition days;
  • support summer schools;
  • read all the relevant policies and procedures, and
  • work in school, on induction schemes, during the summer holiday before taking up post.

They unanimously thought it right that the NQT should work these days unpaid. I was not surprised, but still horrified. My input made not one bit of measurable difference, perhaps, but the negative response did not change my fundamental view that work should be rewarded with appropriate pay.

In my first headship (I am in my third) I came across the issue of part time staff and bank holidays that fall in term time – how does the person who does not work on Fridays get the Good Friday bank holiday entitlement if it falls at the end of a four-day school week? The rare but actual extra bank holiday (like 2022’s Platinum Jubilee) caused more inequality – teachers might work 194 days if full time and get an extra day of holiday, but work their full 154 if on a 0.8 contract? It was the same, but worse and more complicated for support staff who are most often part time.

In my second headship, I worked at a through primary that came about from an amalgamation of three separate entitles – a nursery, an infant school and a junior school. Shortly after amalgamation, it became a ‘pathfinder’ school for the introduction of PPA. The school day was a different length in all three key stages. Different PPA delivery methods were in place in each. Yet each teacher was full-time and surely had the same directed time element in their terms and conditions? This was where I first saw the reality of an afternoon not being a half day – is there a single school where it is? – and that an afternoon was not, therefore, the 10 per cent PPA entitlement. I again made no friends by talking about it in a head teachers’ group, but mostly I saw bafflement from people who had simply not seen an issue. Nursery hours were extended while I was there – to two sessions of 15 hours each. How was one teacher, on a full time contract and with directed time of 1,265 hours, supposed to teach 30 hours each week when the colleagues in the Key Stage 1 building had pupil contact for 22.5 hours? And how were we to add in all the other expected elements of the teacher’s job – parent evenings, staff development, SEND meetings, training and courses, supervision, preparation and so on – to those 30 hours? It was abundantly and clearly unfair to have the teacher in nursery on the same rate of pay in class 33 per cent more than the teacher in Year 1.

One characteristic of the school I now work in is part-time working; 11 of 22 class teachers are part-time, with six different levels of FTE below full-time (from 0.4 to 0.8). The school is in a local authority that introduced a set pattern for the Easter school holiday, thus (incidentally but in full knowledge) creating a school year with multiple part weeks. This academic year we have six weeks shortened by either training days, bank holidays or school holidays. Because I want to do this right, and to pay people for what they work, give the benefits to which each is entitled, and ultimately to be fair, I not only calculate and share the ‘direct time’ calculation per week but I also look at the whole year. In 2021/22, the school year in Sheffield schools will have four more Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays than Mondays. I do get involved in the minutiae and the proper application of policy, so I then calculate the impact on each teacher individually:

  • though two teachers are 0.6 FTE, they work opposite ends of the week and this year produces very different calculations for them;
  • the four 0.5 FTE teachers do not class share, and the middle of the week is not at the end of the Wednesday morning session;
  • two Year Leaders, with 0.8 FTE contracts and additional leadership release time guaranteed, have different days on which they do not work;
  • we altered lunch times as control measures in the pandemic, and this changed calculations for everyone;
  • part-time staff have built the rest of their weeks and do not, generally, have the option to flex much to accommodate school’s changing needs or organisation. We have to work around what is now effectively ‘fixed’.

I am still troubled by meetings that do not get started promptly and how this creates ‘trapped time’ for colleagues who will need to be here, can’t go anywhere else for such a short period, but aren’t being engaged in the planned activity at that time

I do not have a good enough definition of ‘reasonable’ as featured in Terms and Conditions, because after directed time teachers can be expected to work ‘reasonable additional hours’ to fulfil their professional responsibilities. After directed hours, how many hours a week does a teacher need to do to carry out their professional responsibilities? What if they choose to work more? And is that on average or in each week? And how do we apply the interpretation evenly across all schools, so that my ‘reasonable’ is the same as at other schools?

HLTAs are not teachers, but they can undertake teaching (on a support staff contract with a set number of hours per week). Why do they not have established PPA?

As an historically lower funded (per pupil) school we do not have the financial resources to provide very much if anything in the way of additional release for leaders. SLT meets after school, and five out of seven are on MPR (not the leadership scale). I haven’t yet managed to work a way of realising these staff or including the fortnightly meetings into their directed time calculation.

As a manager I find it very difficult at times to work round teachers’ individual start times – they are ‘directed’ to be here only five minutes before the supervision time starts before school so I cannot expect them to be here if they choose not to be. This can be frustrating.