School Rep Bulletin - 35 Hour Working Week

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The following represent the most commonly asked questions relating to the 35 hour working week and the contractual matters associated with Working Time Agreements.

Q1. How are teachers’ contractual duties determined?

They are shown in the SNCT Handbook Part 2: Section 2 - Main Duties

Q2. Can the duties be varied at school level e.g. by the insertion of such a variation in a school Working Time Agreement (WTA)?


Q3. Can the duties be amended at District (authority) level?

Only if the SNCT approves the amendment.

Q4. How much time is contractually available for the duties?

35 hours in any full teaching week. If the week contains a teacher holiday the time available for contractual duties during that week is reduced on a pro-rata basis. Teacher holidays are best allowed for by regarding the teacher as having worked a normal timetable on the holiday.

Q5. Some schools seem to use a 38 week year and others a 39. Which is correct?

The difference between the two are the five in-service days. It is probably better to assume a 38 week year and hence contracted time would be 1330 hours per year. The five in-service days then do not count towards the 1330 hours. There should still be discussion as to the format and use of the in-service days.

Q6. How are the 35 hours distributed?

By the drawing up of an agreement at school level following negotiation (not simply “consultation”) within the School Negotiating Committee (SNC). A school calendar is a very useful addition to the formal agreement.

Q7. How is the staff’s consent obtained?

Either by a free vote of staff (best undertaken by the use of a secret ballot) or by the teachers’ side indicating their consent on behalf of the teaching staff at a meeting of the SNC.

Q8. What happens if an agreement can’t be reached?

The matter is referred to the Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers (LNCT). If the LNCT has previously produced a framework agreement, a “failure to agree” situation is less likely to occur.

Q9. Can the headteacher impose an agreement?


Q10. Can a WTA be established by the headteacher asking staff to “approve last year’s agreement unless I hear from you”?

No. The SNC must meet in order to ratify any agreement.

Q11. Does the SSTA see the necessity for members to count the 35 hours to the minute every week?

Most definitely not. It should not be and is not necessary in most schools.

Q12. When might such a situation arise?

This approach may require to be adopted if a school’s senior management adopts any practice which is contrary to the terms of national agreements or where the professionalism of members is being attacked in any way. It is worth noting that schools which have successful Staff Liaison Committees have fewer problems in this area. It is useful if members seek further advice from the General Secretary if they are contemplating such action.

Q13. What should happen if it is recognised that a school’s WTA is not able to meet the demands being placed on teacher’s time?

The SNC should reconvene. (An SNC should in any event meet regularly to review matters.) The WTA may be amended but only by the express agreement of staff. It is valuable, of course, that any WTA contains an element of “flexibility time” to deal with unexpected contingencies. Members are entitled to view the school calendar for the current term as a settled issue.

Q14. Are there any contractual duties for unpromoted teachers which are not shown in the school WTA?

No. If a teacher carries out any work relating to a matter not covered in the WTA, by definition that work is non-contractual and hence is voluntary. All main grade duties (as defined in the SNCT Handbook Part 2: Section 2 - Main Duties) must be allowed for in the school WTA.

Q15. Are there any contractual duties for Principal Teachers not shown in the school WTA?

No. See the answer above.

Q16. What happens if a Principal Teacher does not have enough time for all management duties? Do these duties remain?

No. “Duties” exist only insofar as there is time available to complete them. If the time is not available, the low priority work is no longer contractual. For this reason it is all the more important that the demands placed on Principal Teachers (and unpromoted staff) are realistic and capable of being completed within the 35 hour week.

Q17. It has been suggested that teachers on sick leave (especially Principal Teachers) still have their contractual duties to complete on return to school. Is this true?

This is absolute nonsense. The work, including management tasks, should have been completed by someone else during the teacher’s absence.

Q18. There is much reference to Principal Teachers’ “Management Time”. Does this time actually exist?

It must be stated clearly that all teachers can be asked to teach classes up to the limit of 22.5 hours imposed by national agreement. In the past it has generally been that Principal Teachers are given time for “management” duties by having a reduced timetabled commitment. There is really no other mechanism to provide such time.

Q19. Can Principal Teachers be given formal “management time”?

This might happen but is exceptionally unlikely for those Principal Teachers who have anything approaching a normal timetabled commitment. If “management time” is to exist, it must like all other time be accounted for in the school WTA. It is easily seen that Principal Teachers cannot undertake normal class teaching, have the usual preparation and correction time and for there to be time remaining to permit a formal allowance of “management time”. Many local agreements on cover make mention of “management time”. Hence many school based statements on the application of the cover policy will make provision to protect “management time” from class cover calls.

Q20. Is it possible for there to be a different WTA for Principal Teachers?

It is common for the time required for “Principal Teachers’ Meetings” to be shown as a discrete item on a WTA. Unpromoted staff would have this time accounted for in a different manner. It is, however, unusual to write a separate WTA for Principal Teachers.

Q21. What happens when an individual teacher finds that his/her workload cannot be completed within the 35 hours?

If additional time needed is significant, the teacher should see the headteacher to permit discussion of necessary arrangements to be made to solve the problem. This might mean that duties are prioritised to the extent that some are not completed by the teacher.

Q22. What causes such situations?

These problems commonly arise if
a).    an individual teacher has a large number of pupil reports to complete (perhaps being the sole teacher of a subject);
b).    a teacher has a significantly heavy upper school commitment in a subject which uses a large amount of time for internal SQA work;
c).    there have been heavy demands on a teacher to provide cover for absent teachers.

Q23. How are the contractual obligations of part-time teachers defined?

The general contractual obligation is on a pro-rata basis. However, the duties must be capable of being performed on days on which the part time teacher is contractually committed to attend (with the exception of Parents’ Evenings). It should be noted that many jobshare agreements require both jobshare partners to attend on all in-service days. Additional duties shown on a WTA must be carried out by part-time staff at times end on to their working blocks. This may mean part-time staff undertaking their contracted duties at different times from full-time staff.

Q24. How can I obtain further advice?

Your school representative may assist but only in terms of providing or explaining the school WTA; (this person may, in fact, be our negotiator rather than the school representative).

Any member requiring advice as to the interpretation of a WTA should contact the General Secretary.