Rarely cover: what does it mean?


As a member of school staff you may be asked to cover another teacher’s class due to unforeseeable circumstances. This can be known as ‘rarely cover’. The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (SPTCD) explains in section 52.7:

Teachers should be required to provide cover in accordance with paragraph 50.7 only rarely, and only in circumstances that are not foreseeable (this does not apply to teachers who are employed wholly or mainly for the purpose of providing such cover).”

Paragraph 50.7 of the STPCD states:

Subject to paragraph 52.7 supervise and so far as practicable teach any pupils where the person timetabled to take the class is not available to do so.”

If you are not employed under the terms of the STPCD, you will need to to review your employment contract for the details on how the topic of rarely cover is managed at your school. 

In this article, we look at how you can raise a concern if you believe you are being asked to cover too many lessons and link to examples of rarely cover policies at schools.

Is there a definition for ‘rarely’ cover?

The STPCD does not include a definition or limit for rarely cover, for example, a set amount of times a year when you might be expected to cover lessons.

If you are an Edapt subscriber and are concerned that you are being asked to cover too many lessons throughout the year you can contact us for advice on how to raise a concern to your school effectively. 

Rarely cover policies.

Some schools may have a rarely cover policy for its staff. 

They may explain that class teachers will only be asked to cover for an absent colleague in exceptional circumstances. For example: in an emergency with no notice, and this would only happen until an additional teacher could be arranged to take the class.

Some may state that the senior leadership team will take account of the following key factors when deciding to use cover supervision:  

  • The extent to which continuity of learning can be maintained
  • The length of time a particular group of pupils would be working without a qualified teacher
  • The proportion of the total curriculum time affected in a specific subject area over the course of the term

Policy may explain that in situations when teachers have to provide cover then the school will ensure that cover is shared fairly and will maintain and monitor a record of cover to inform planning.

PPA time forms part of the legal conditions of employment for teachers and therefore will not be used for cover. STPCD section 52.5 says “A teacher must not be required to carry out any other duties during the teacher’s PPA time”. It therefore advisable that PPA is written formally into timetables, thus protecting that time.

At times schools use the words ’emergency cover’ to mean situations where they cannot get arrangements in place to avoid asking staff to cover. The word ’emergency’ is not used in STPCD, the correct phrase is ‘not foreseeable’. Schools can enact other solutions other than asking staff to cover contravening local understanding of ‘rarely cover’; whilst not ideal, solutions such as combining groups in a large space is permitted.




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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.