Monthly Archives: June 2020

Philip Collins: right, but also wrong.

This week in The Times, Philip Collins (not the Genesis guy) set out his master plan for getting children back to school. Given that I want nothing more than to get my school back to normal, I was interested to see what he had to say. As always, there is much that is worth noting, but also – as so often – much which misunderstands (or ignores) reality.

So what did he say?

Boris should not “sack Gavin Williamson so much as overwhelm him”

As far as I can tell, this has pretty much already happened. Too much of the confusion and chaos has come about because Number 10 announces things without enough consultation with the DfE – and then schools are faced with a constant bombardment of updated policy as the civil servants try to catch up.

Explain how Danish and German schools have been able to reopen without a spike in infections.

Well, first of all it appears that one of the things Denmark and Germany have done is to limit the spread and impact of the virus such that their additional excess deaths to around 6% of the normal amount, compared to nearly 60% in the UK. I’d say there’s definitely something we could learn here. It’s also notable that their deaths per capita are less than 1/5 of those in the UK. But presumably that’s not what Mr Collins had in mind?

In Germany, most areas are teaching classes in half-size groups (just like the UK), while in Saxony where they proposed full classes, a campaign by parents has led to attendance being made optional.

It seems that in Denmark they started with groups of fewer than 10, and have now allowed up to 15 – exactly what’s happened in UK primaries. In some cases it appears that schools have therefore recruited significantly more teachers; that will be a tall order in the UK where recruitment is tough as it is, but if the government can fund it, I know schools like mine would gladly have more teachers to get more children in.

It seems that at best, what we can learn is that it might be possible to extend the existing model being used in primary schools into secondary schools.

Let’s convert other premises to make schooling consistent with the rules on social distancing

That’s a reasonable suggestion to start with. It might have been easier if government funding hadn’t reduced the number of public buildings available for such things, whether that’s libraries or sure start centres. But perhaps Mr Collins had other buildings in mind? I’ve no objection in principle, and I’m happy to put in the work to safeguarding, risk assessments, etc. if the government will fund the additional staffing. Because, of course, we’re still talking about doubling the numbers of groups. How do we solve that?

Let’s call up an army of retired teachers as we did with the NHS at the height of the pandemic. 

Apparently around 15,000 NHS staff volunteered to rejoin the frontline.

We currently have around 425,000 teachers in England, and around 8 million pupils. If we are to have class sizes of 15, even if we were able to remove all duplication (PPA cover, SENCo work, headteachers’ admin, etc.) , we’d still need another 100,000 teachers overnight. That’s quite an army of the over-60s we need.

Split the primary school day in two with half the pupils attending in the morning and half in the afternoon, with a voucher each for lunch.

I’m not sure how Mr Collins would imagine this working for parents. There probably aren’t that many jobs where families can work half-days. But it’s not an impossible approach to have primary schools operating on some sort of rota. Indeed, many wanted to until the government ruled it out – and some still have.

Given the need to clean in between different groups using spaces, a better plan might be to offer either alternative weeks, or at least half-weeks of in-school education, complemented by home learning for the other days – but it’s certainly not going to get the nation’s workforce back on the job straight away.

The government needs to set a minimum expectation that all schools must provide for each of the key stages of education

We call that the National Curriculum, but if his argument that we need to thin it for the duration, I’m open to that possibility. I think in reality what he means is that there needs to be clear guidance on expectations for home learning. I’m all in favour of that, too, so long as every family has access – which they certainly don’t at the moment.

State schools could be partnered with private schools to maximise that part of the curriculum which is still online

I don’t know what this means but it probably sounds like a solution. There are already excellent things happening in the state sector, such as the Oak National Academy. But again, the main hurdle here is access. If every child needs internet access, then we need a lot more broadband connections, devices and support for families.

Head teachers would then be charged with guaranteeing that all their pupils had the technological facility to do their work.

Ah, I see… it’s my problem to solve. That’s great. I can do that. I would say that it would be easier if the government managed it centrally, but their track record on getting devices to the most needy has been a disappointment at best. But yes, make it my responsibility and give me the money, and I’ll get it done.

A special fund, added to the pupil premium for poorer children, must be made available to provide this.

That would work. But let’s not imagine that it’s just those children who are eligible for pupil premium who need this support. Families who are otherwise reasonably financially comfortable don’t necessarily have enough devices for everyone in their household. This is a big spend Mr Collins is talking about. I guess it’s easy to come up with solutions when you’re not responsible for the purse strings.

Scrap the summer holiday, for at least this one extraordinary year.

Mr Collins appears to think that “this extra effort will be a sacrifice for teachers, who ought to be compensated accordingly, but the great majority will want to do the right thing”. Teachers do want to do the right thing, but they also want to see their families, spend time with their own children and have a break. For school leaders particularly, this academic year has been pretty much non-stop since Christmas and headteachers are already showing 10 percentage point increase in feelings of burn-out. Unless Mr Collins is expecting the newly-returned retirees to take on these roles, I’d suggest that it’s quite a risk to push heads much further.

Apparently, “plans for summer schools are well advanced in Belgium”. I can’t find any information about these, but @MsVCooke directed me towards this article on Summer Camps. If that is what Mr Collins is referring to, then I think he may be expecting a lot if he thinks such schemes would “close the gap”.

The school year is usually 190 days. Next year it should be 210.

There’s an argument for this. Although, of course, as Mr Collins says teachers will need compensating for a significant increase in their teaching hours. Again, if the money is there, then I’m sure the profession is open to the discussion. But that’s a big ‘if’

Of course, it’s worth noting that Mr Collins is basing much of his thinking on evidence from the US, where there are already two fewer weeks of learning, and almost double the length of the summer holidays.

In some cases, the rules about a child repeating a year could be relaxed. 

I don’t know what he thinks the rules are, but given that the rules are that such decisions are made on children’s best interests, that seems a pretty sensible approach.

All children who are beginning secondary school in the autumn should be tested, to assess what maths and English help they may need.

Why only those beginning secondary? Surely all schools should be assessing all pupils to find out what help they need. Whether that’s through tests is probably a decision best left to teachers.

The government should establish a national tutoring service with help targeted in maths and in English, offered in the final year of primary school and the first years of secondary school, the critical phase for learning.

Eh? Who says that’s “the critical phase”?

But that oddity aside, I’ve no objection to a national tutoring service. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell there’s no indication from Mr Collins who will be staffing this service. Are we engaging all those thousands of retired teachers desperate to ditch their retirement?

Mr Collins does note that “good tuition can boost a child’s learning by the equivalent of five months”. He didn’t mention the cost of £700 per pupil from the same source. Presumably that’s all part of the funding he imagines the government is preparing to throw at schools?

It is astonishing that, months into this crisis, there is no evident plan.

I couldn’t agree more. I want to hear from the government about the viability of having all primary school pupils back in class from September. I want to hear how they believe they could safely manage an increased number of secondary-aged pupils in school, and what support they’ll give to families who need now to be able to engage with learning from home in a way that’s never been possible before.

I’d love to hear Gavin Williamson announce the sorts of levels of funding that Mr Collins seems to think are on the horizon. But his suggestion that the first part of the solution is to “Divide and rule” is misguided.  Teachers are not opposed to sensible thinking, high levels of investment, and getting their jobs back to normal: the barriers are elsewhere.

To have written a more accurate and constructive article, Mr Collins might have been best simply to say that what Boris should do is to invest massively in teachers, schools, technology and disadvantaged families. An approach like that would knock spots off a couple of extra weeks in school every summer.





Are teachers paid for the holidays?

As Boris Johnson should say more often: everything I’m about to say applies to England only.

Of course, equally, academies are free to set their own terms and conditions so may have imposed other terms on staff.

So, are teachers paid for the holidays?

Well, the short answer is Yes. But that’s not an entirely popular answer. There’s a (perfectly understandable) misconception that teachers are only paid for their teaching weeks, and that this pay is then spread over 12 months for convenience.

When I suggested otherwise, I brought an onslaught of opposition – mostly perfectly polite. Obviously one person exclaimed that they’d hate to work for me, so that’s a lucky escape for at least one of us.

Teachers’ conditions are notoriously tricky, so I’ll try to set out all the many reasons why I think it’s clear that teachers are paid for the holidays, but before I do, let me be clear what I’m not saying.

  • I don’t think teachers should work through their holidays this summer
  • I don’t think teachers are paid too much.
  • I don’t think teachers don’t work in the holidays
  • I don’t think teaching is easy, or that teachers only work 9-3
  • I don’t think that being paid for the holidays means we’re being paid for 13 weeks of doing nothing.

It’s also worth noting that when teachers pay scales are set, the fact that we have good holidays will be factored in to that to some extent.

However, none of that changes the fact that teachers pay is not pro-rata and then spread across the year: we are paid all year round, including receiving 13 weeks paid holidays.

So where’s the evidence?

School Teachers Pay & Conditions Document

The STPCD is remarkably unhelpful on this, because the only limits set on teachers hours are the 1265-hour limit on directed time. This is the calculation of the hours that headteachers can direct teachers’ work and includes teaching, assemblies, PPA, duties, meetings, etc. Basically anything that requires you to be in school.

But paragraph 51.7 also makes clear that this is not the maximum amount of time a teacher must work; far from it. Teachers must work whatever reasonable additional hours are necessary. So, clearly teachers must be paid for more than 1265 hours work.

Now, let me also be clear that I think there’s a massive workload problem in the profession, but that’s not because of our pay & conditions; it’s because of poor leadership that demands more of teachers than is helpful or necessary.

But anyway, if there isn’t a 1265-hour limit, perhaps the 195 days is what matters? Could it be that teachers are paid for 195 days and not for all the others?

Burgundy Book

Most teachers, even those in academies, are still employed under the Burgundy Book conditions, or a very similar set of arrangements.

Again, unfortunately, the conditions are not explicit about holiday, but there is something of relevance here. If a teacher is permitted to take unpaid leave (or has to have a day’s unpaid leave because of strike action), then the deduction made from the salary is 1/365th of that teacher’s annual salary. This is because salary is accumulated in equal instalments of 1/365th each day of employment. 

This particular example was tested when a sixth form college tried to deduct 1/260th of pay for strike days (based on 260 weekdays a year), and the case referred to the Burgundy Book which clearly sets out the requirement.

So, it’s clear that when it comes to deductions from pay, we are treated as being paid 1/365th of our salary for each day of the year, regardless of whether it’s a teaching day or holiday day.

That’s not to say that teachers can be made to work 365 days a year, any more than any employee can be made to work on their holiday days; but it does make clear that pay accrues daily.

It’s tempting to conclude that this is all because teachers’ pay is spread across 12 months but there are several other examples of practice which suggests that pay is year-round for teachers. 

Comparisons to other school staff

There are many school staff who are on term-time only contracts. These staff usually are paid for only the weeks they work, plus their statutory leave entitlement. They end up on a “pro rata” salary, even if they work full-time hours during their working weeks.

When a teaching assistant, office administrator or school business manager post is advertised, if it is a term-time only contract, the employee will not earn the same as other full-time staff who work for local authorities on the identical pay scale.

This is what teachers often think happens, but teachers’ pay is not calculated this way at all. It explains why a teacher who works the whole of the autumn term, which could feasibly be 15 teaching weeks, gets exactly the same 4 months pay as a teacher who works a term from 1 May to 31 August, with as little 10 weeks teaching.

Ask any school business manager how complicated it can get calculating a teaching assistant’s final pay packet!

Comparison to school leaders

The 1265-hour/195-day limits only apply to main/upper scale teachers. Once a teacher moves onto the leadership scale, those limits are removed. But as many teachers who have made the move into leadership will know, the gap between those scales is not large.

In fact, a teacher on UPS3 and a small TLR might be earning around £43,000. Moving on to the first 2 points of the leadership scale means taking a pay cut, while at the same time losing that protected limit on time. But with the removal of the 195 day limit, school leaders don’t get a different holiday entitlement, or a significant uplift in pay to reflect their year-round status, because it’s no different from other teachers.

Teachers on the leadership scale are still entitled to their legal minimum of holiday, and must still take it during the 13 closure weeks for which they are paid.

Legal Entitlement

Firstly, all employees in the UK are entitled to the equivalent of 5.6 weeks of paid leave. So somewhere in teachers’ paid holidays must be those 5.6 weeks (or their pro rata equivalent if your argument is that we’re not paid for 52 weeks). 

If it were the case that teachers were actually paid for the legal minimum of holiday entitlement, then something would have had to have changed in 2009. Up until then, the legal entitlement was 24 days (which can include bank holidays). When it changed to 28 days, teachers would have been entitled to an additional 4 days pay. But they weren’t, because they are considered already to have 13 weeks’ paid leave, in excess of the statutory minimum.

This is partly the cause of the confusion: because teachers can take anything between 5.6 weeks and 13 weeks paid leave, there is no need to specify exactly how much leave is taken; teachers are left to make their own judgments on the matter.

[In fact, you can pretty much guarantee that any effort to pin this down would be to the detriment of teachers]

Comparisons to other professions

Setting the 2009 change aside, if teachers are only paid for, say, 44 weeks a year (39 school weeks + 5 weeks holiday), then we need to account for that in salary scales. Either we can argue that teachers start on a disappointing salary of £24,373, or that teachers are paid pro-rata their actual salary of £28,164.

Now you might argue that that’s still not high enough, but we can’t as a profession claim that we’re not being paid for the holidays, and claim the lower pay rate.

My personal view is that being paid for the 13-weeks holidays is reasonable because teachers work very long hours in term time. I think any argument about pay and conditions would be better focused on workload, or raising pay based on it being for all 52 weeks.

What about supply teachers?

It’s true that supply teachers who are paid through a local authority or school are entitled to 1/195th of the annual salary for each day worked. That’s not because all teachers are only paid that way, but because – as with all jobs – people doing equivalent jobs shouldn’t be disadvantaged just because they’re part-time or supply. A supply teacher teaching 195 days is entitled to the same annual pay as a teacher teaching 195 days. Their holiday pay is wrapped up in the daily rate.

But my payslips says…

I *think* mine says 32.5 hours. Some people say theirs say 27.5, or 26… or some other number. Given that most teachers are employed under the same rules, that should in itself highlight how meaningless those figures are.

They’ll almost all be based on some random calculation of the 1265 hours, which we’ve already ruled out as being relevant. I guess the reason your payslip says whatever it says is because no payroll software allows them to enter “all the hours under the sun” in that box.

Yeah, but, what do you know?

It’s true: I’m just some bloke of Twitter. You might still think I’m wrong. In which case, you could refer to the NEU who point out in their guidance for support staff that teachers are paid for a full year:


Or you could refer to Croner-i (the business & HR experts) who make clear that non-teaching days are regarded as paid leave:


Teachers work really long hours, though, including in the holidays

Yes. None of this affects the fact that teachers work hard in term time, and continue to work through the holidays.

Most of the data suggests that teachers typically work around 50 hours a week in term time, well above the 1265 directed hours, and above the working hours of the typical employee. 

You might reasonably argue that in working such long hours over fewer weeks, that teachers work a similar number of hours overall to any other profession of similar standing – or possibly more. 

You might also reasonably argue that teachers deserve the longer paid holidays to make up for the very long hours.

You can also argue that teachers’ pay rates are held down because of the perception of the good holidays, and that we need to challenge that and raise teacher pay.

But that doesn’t change the fact that teachers are paid for their holidays.