Andrew Lifford is a former secondary school teacher, teacher trainer and education researcher. He has worked at Portland School, Google, The Key, Researchers in Schools and Teach First. The views in this post do not represent the views of Edapt.
It’s that time of the year where thousands of teachers will be handing in their notice to move to another school or to leave the profession. Some commentators suggest teaching can be inflexible as in maintained schools (and in the majority of academies) there are set deadlines throughout the year to hand in your notice.
The Burgundy Book outlines the terms and conditions for handing in your notice in maintained schools:
- To leave at the end of the Autumn term (31st December). Final date of notice is 31st October
- To leave at the end of the Spring term (30th April). Final date of notice is 28th or 29th of February
- To leave at the end of the Summer term (31st August). Final date of notice is 31st May
So to be able to teach at a new school in September you need to hand in your notice by the 31st May. This will give your school enough lead time to find your replacement. You may be in breach of your employment contract if you do not give enough notice. In theory, your local authority or Trust could take legal action if you do not follow the correct procedures.
In the majority of roles outside of teaching if you would like to resign you normally have to give 2-3 months notice depending on the seniority of your role. You can usually do this at any point during the year so you can be flexible when job hunting, attending interviews or moving different sectors. If the private sector can do this, some may say why can’t schools can’t follow a similar approach?
Is the system too rigid?
The notice system for teachers can seem rigid when looked at in comparison but there are a number of advantages for both the employee and employer. Schools can anticipate recruitment churn in advance, so are not constantly on the lookout if teachers could hand in their notice at any time. There would also be an adverse impact in terms of consistency of learning for pupils and on timetabling and induction periods for staff.
Adverse impact in terms of consistency of learning for pupils …
One advantage for teachers is that they will be paid for August while technically not doing any work for that month, which would be very rare to find in other sectors. It also gives you enough time to hand over your roles and responsibilities and say goodbye to colleagues and pupils especially if you have been teaching at the same school for a long time.
Negative impacts of these notice windows is that some school staff can feel unwanted and left to feel out of place on the sidelines while working their notice periods. Some staff even may delay it right until the last day to submit their notice to avoid any detrimental consequences from their colleagues. For schools, to find the right calibre of candidate, especially for a more senior role could be tricky to achieve especially if you are in an area of the country where candidates are hard to come by.
The recruitment and retention puzzle
Teacher recruitment and retention is the puzzle which is at the forefront of the schools sector. I think reviewing the notice periods found in the Burgundy Book could be beneficial, even if no changes are made. Especially for career changers coming into the profession for the first time might be surprised they can only resign at set points throughout the year. It seems to be one of those rules which hasn’t had significant reform, whether because it just seems to work at the moment, or the alternative would provide more disruption.