Time: a professional challenge?

*Time* Ticking away... by Michel Filion (aka Mike9Alive).


Over the last few weeks I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to the vexed problem of “time”.

Sheila Laing expressed this very well in this comment on my log:

However, key to number 2 about teachers being empowered to work together to create outstanding learning environments is that TIME is the essential resource to allow this fusion of energies. It really requires quality dedicated time and can’t be done at the end of a working day.

It’s a recurring theme when speaking to colleagues at Listen and Learn meetings about the major challenges they face within their job – “if only we could get more time to work together”.

Before attempting to try to work out how we could generate “more” time for teachers to work together it’s perhaps necessary to consider what time already exists within the system. It is only once one has that kind of accurate appreciation that we can begin to consider whether or not we are making best use of that time and how we might find other ways of generating more time for a variety of development tasks.

Unfortunately the question about what time we have available at the moment sets us down what could be considered to be an anti-professional route – i.e. what is set out in a teacher’s contract? I’ve never been that comfortable with the idea of counting hours and minutes as a means of describing our professional practice – yet without such a delineation the limits of a professional’s responsibilities become open to personal interpretation ( and possible abuse).

The key to clarifying this issue is “A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century”  which in 2001 introduced a new negotiating framework for Scottish teachers’ pay and conditions of service.

The following attempts to set out the limits within which teachers work.  It’s important to state at this point that I know very few teachers who work within the limits set out this the agreement – i.e. teachers regularly work beyond their contractual obligations. The following extracts come from the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers

What are a teachers duties? (I’ve emboldened those elements which might relate to development of professional practice and the curriculum)

2.2 Subject to the policies of the school and the council, the duties of teachers are to perform such tasks* as the headteacher shall direct. These should give reasonable regard to overall teacher workload associated with:

(a) teaching assigned classes together with associated preparation and correction;

(b) developing the school curriculum;

(c) assessing, recording and reporting on the work of pupils;

(d) preparing pupils for examinations and assisting with their administration;

(e) providing advice and guidance to pupils on issues related to their education;

(f) promoting and safeguarding the health, welfare and safety of pupils;

(g) working in partnership with parents, support staff and other professionals;

(h) undertaking appropriate and agreed continuing professional development;

(i) participating in issues related to school planning, raising achievement and individual review; and

(j) contributing towards good order and the wider needs of the school.

 Working Year and working week

3.2 The working year for teachers shall consist of 195 days of which 190 days will coincide with the school year for pupils with the remaining five days being worked by the individual teachers on duties as planned by the council.

3.3 All teachers shall have a 35 hour working week. The working week shall apply on a pro rata basis to teachers on part-time contracts.

3.4 Within the 35-hour week, a maximum of 22.5 hours will be devoted to class contact except for those teachers on the National Teacher Induction Scheme.

3.6 An allowance of no less than one third of the teacher’s actual class contact commitment is provided for preparation and correction. The use of remaining time will be subject to agreement at school level within LNCT guidelines, based on the Code of Practice on Working Time Arrangements (see Appendix 2.7).

3.8 In addition to the provisions of paragraph 3.3 above, all teachers have a contractual requirement to complete a maximum of 35 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) per annum.

Continuing professional development

9.2 A teacher’s CPD shall consist of an appropriate balance of personal professional development, attendance at nationally accredited courses, small scale school based activities and other CPD activities. This balance will be based on an assessment of individual need, taking account of school, local and national priorities and shall be carried out at an appropriate time and place.

9.3 Every teacher will agree an annual CPD plan with his/her immediate manager and every teacher will be required to maintain an individual CPD record.

9.4 It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a wide range of CPD development opportunities and the teacher’s responsibility to undertake a programme of agreed CPD. This should be capable of being discharged within contractual working time.

9.5 Local agreements on the use of remaining time may include an allocation of time to undertake CPD. Such time will be included in CPD plans and will contribute to the wide range of development opportunities which employers are required to provide.

9.6 As part of the working year, teachers and music instructors must attend five days(pro rata for part-time staff) of development activity planned by the council, eg in-service training. This is separate from contractual CPD time but may form a part of the CPD plan and record.

So what does the above mean?

Teacher’s have a contractual 35 hour working week.

Of these 35 hours, 7.5 hours should be given over to preparation and correction.

Maximum class contact time is 22.5 hours.

This leaves 5 hours per week for other duties.

There are five days each year given over to in-service days – i.e. 35 hours total.

Each teacher has to spend 35 hours a year undertaking continuous professional development activity.

The way ahead?

Here are three questions arising from such an analysis? 

Perhaps we should start to see preparation work to be a collegiate activity as opposed to the traditional perception of an individual enterprise?

Are we making best use of the five days of development activity?

Could/should we tie the 35 hours of CPD activity into preparing for A Curriculum for Excellence?

Additional time strategies:

Here are some traditional approaches which managers have used to create additional development time::

  1. Provide ad-hoc classroom cover for teachers to do some work together during the school day.
  2. Modify a teachers timetable to build additional non-teaching time into their week.
  3. Take a teacher out of the school timetable to undertake development work – secondment.

All of the above carry a financial burden – i.e. a school must be able to pay for the time to cover a teacher’s class.  Current supply cover rates are £170 per day.

Over the next few weeks I intend to explore this matter in great detail with colleagues at all levels.




1 thought on “Time: a professional challenge?

  1. I like this post. It’s an excellent starting point on the journey to addressing the dominant issue on teachers’ minds – time.

    I’m realistic regarding the additional time strategies, the money isn’t there for this to happen this time. To be honest, I’m not sure we should be spending money on these options anyway. If we were offered additional non-teaching time or a secondment, it would be someone like me who would jump at the opportunity – i.e. someone who has already been converted and is enthusiastic for the initiative. I would then develop materials and try to “sell” them to my colleagues and encourage them to use them. This is not in the spirit of the changes envisaged.

    I think you have demonstrated that the time does exist to allow the profession to spend time on a Curriculum for Excellence. However, I do believe that this needs to be a big concerted effort. It needs to be not only recognised by managers at all levels, but led by them. It should be top of all improvement plans. It should be coordinated to allow cross-department/school/sector working. And it should have some sort of timetable. For example, a series of sessions which aim to consider the following points:
    – What is a curriculum for excellence? How is it different?
    – What research/evidence underpins this changes?
    – What does a curriculum for excellence mean for me and my pupils?
    – What do I need to do to prepare for a curriculum for excellence?
    – Who can I work with to help me to achieve this?
    – Time and space to work collegiately.
    – Opportunities to review and share.

    Now that the government seems to be slowing the implementation of these changes a little, I feel that it is a real opportunity to get together and do this right…

Comments are closed.