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How much should school staff on Term-Time Only contracts be expected to do in the holidays?

(17 Posts)
Washimal Wed 19-Aug-20 13:33:12

Hi all,

I have no idea what's reasonable or normal as I have worked in two schools (in a Pastoral role) with very differing expectations. In my previous school staff on Term time only contracts were not even expected to even check their emails in the holidays, let alone respond to queries or be available for calls.

I've been working at my current school for just under a year. I am very happy there and have found SLT supportive but over the summer I have received daily emails from various members of staff who are not on TTO contracts themselves, not "just letting you know for your information" type emails but clearly expecting a response from me. I have also been asked on a number of occasions to make phone calls to parents and external agencies about students, which is not easy to have in depth conversations (that are often highly sensitive) with 3 young children at home! I have also been asked to look over various documents in preparation for September and to make any necessary changes.

I have now had an email from a member of SLT informing me that they need to meet with me at some point this week to discuss a student. DP works long hours so for me to do this I would need to pay a babysitter. Would it be unreasonable of me to say no? Or is this something staff on TTO contracts are expected to do in most schools?

I took a hefty pay cut to work TTO and so I can't afford to pay for childcare a couple of days a week in the holidays, which is the only way I could feasibly keep on top of everything I'm being asked to do.

Any advice on how to approach this would be much appreciated.

OP’s posts: |
echt Wed 19-Aug-20 13:42:45

Write back and tell them you'd love to meet about this but have other commitments all week. Do not specify.

Washimal Wed 19-Aug-20 14:00:19

echt, this was my first instinct on recieving the request but I'm worried that it doesn't address the wider problem.

OP’s posts: |
StationView Wed 19-Aug-20 14:15:36

IME (25 years teaching) nobody in a school will ever tell you to stop work because you have done enough. Your contract is TTO. If you check emails and respond to them, you are working for free. Is that why you took your hefty pay cut?

In future, put an Out Of Office notice on your emails. I'd be tempted to reply to the SLT member by saying you'd be happy to meet with them, but asking if they'd prefer you to claim for the extra hours worked or store up TOIL. That way, you're not refusing to come in, but you are making it clear that your time is valuable. But I'm a stroppy cow grin

Washimal Wed 19-Aug-20 14:52:27

In future, put an Out Of Office notice on your emails

I have! Doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent hmm
DH says "just don't check them" but as they come up on my phone it's hard to ignore and I don't want to come back in September to a big pile of outstanding stuff. I also don't want any students to be adversely affected if I don't respond as the ones I work with are all vulnerable. The fact that people have been emailing me clearly expecting a response made me think perhaps it was 'normal' for TTO staff to be available and responsive in the holidays but if that's the case surely it's wrong that those staff aren't on 52 week per year contracts?

OP’s posts: |
MikeDryden Wed 19-Aug-20 15:08:02

School Business Manager here. I don’t expect anyone working TTO to check emails and respond to anything. I’ve sent a few emails to my team during the holidays, but they are for reference or action upon their return in September.

The first thing I’d do is delete the email app from your phone. I actively discourage all staff from accessing work on their personal devices. The lines quickly blur, and before you know if you’re checking emails and working out of hours. Not good for staff wellbeing.

With regard to the email from SLT requesting a meeting this week, I’d reply indicating that you’d picked up the message, but only work TTO so are unable to meet due to personal commitments and then leave it at that. Don’t check your emails again until you’re back. SLT are paid to deal with issues at these times, you’re not.

StationView Wed 19-Aug-20 17:20:24

Everything that MikeDryden said ^ ^

I don't have work emails on my phone, and I don't check them at home. As he says, it's not good for wellbeing. Don't let the school guilt-trip you into thinking you have to work for free or vulnerable students will suffer. If the work is so important, you should be paid for it during the holidays.

Washimal Wed 19-Aug-20 17:25:52

If the work is so important, you should be paid for it during the holidays.

I agree.

Thank you for all your responses. I think some staff probably don't realise I work TTO and a few external agencies I work with have expressed surprise about this. If anything, the kids I work with struggle more in the holidays as home is often not positive. So I'm not denying there is a need there and I would be more than willing to work during the holidays if they would put me on a 52 week a year contract but I don't feel the current situation is fair.

OP’s posts: |
skylarkdescending Wed 19-Aug-20 17:52:00

I would be surprised if most school staff know that you only work TTO to be honest. As a class teacher, I don't know the details of many of my pastoral colleagues work conditions. It's easy for the lines to blur, especially when you don't want to let down students but you are not paid to cover this period - somebody else is.

Are you a member of SLT?

I would do as a PP advised and reply that you would be happy to meet as long as you can have TOIL or be paid overtime. Provided you would actually be able to organise childcare?

Washimal Wed 19-Aug-20 17:57:25

I also take your point about work emails on phones. The reason I have it is that during term time I do a lot of home visits to parents, external meetings with social services etc as well as visiting students at their Alternative Provision sites so I need to be able to access my emails when I'm out and about. I could delete the app in the holidays and reinstall it when the new term starts though.

OP’s posts: |
Washimal Wed 19-Aug-20 18:00:23

skylarkdescending I'm not part of the SLT but work very closely with them. My Line Manager and the Head definitely know I'm TTO and both have emailed me asking me to action things over the holidays. Other staff will follow their lead I suppose.

OP’s posts: |
MikeDryden Wed 19-Aug-20 18:44:00

Hi Washimal, I’ve just read your reply about accessing your emails on your phone in work time when on home visits etc. Our Welfare Manager needs similar access, so I provided her with a work mobile. She uses the phone purely during working hours, and it’s switched off and left in school after work and during the holidays.

On a separate note, accessing work data (particularly sensitive pupil/parental info, safeguarding, CP docs etc that you’ll be accessing) on a personal device could present significant GDPR issues.

I admire your attitude to your job and students, but schools rely on the goodwill of staff working so much extra and going above and beyond their remit. I do the same. However, I’m a senior member of staff and I accept that my grade dictates some work outside the remit of my contract. That said, I absolutely do not expect or encourage people in my team to do the same.

Staff wellbeing and mental health is a priority for many schools, and part of my commitment to that is not contacting people outside of work for work related matters.

Working in schools can be draining enough without being interrupted in your own time, and let’s face it, it’s not as if non teaching staff are especially well paid.

Washimal Wed 19-Aug-20 19:22:30

On a separate note, accessing work data (particularly sensitive pupil/parental info, safeguarding, CP docs etc that you’ll be accessing) on a personal device could present significant GDPR issues.

I have questioned this before and was told that from a GDPR point of view it's fine as long as no one else has access to the devices we're using, for example shared computers within a family wouldn't be acceptable. The vast majority of us don't have a work laptop so almost everyone will have been accessing work data on a personal device when WFH during lockdown, there was no other option. I do have a work mobile but it's as old as the hills so I definitely will ask my Line Manager if this can be upgraded to a phone I can access emails on and force myself to leave it locked in my office drawer at work when I'm not working. Thank you for the advice, it's been really helpful.

OP’s posts: |
SE13Mummy Thu 20-Aug-20 00:41:57

I'm so glad you've received such sensible advice from @MikeDryden, especially with regard to wellbeing. If you respond to emails etc. during the holiday, free of charge, why would you ever be offered a 52 week contract? You're giving the impression the role pays enough to be more than TTO which will do you no favours but also runs the risk of setting a precedent that others may find hard to challenge.

Change your out of office/auto reply message to something more assertive e.g. Thank you for your message. I am a term time only employee so your email will not be read until 7th September. XX can be contacted on XX for support with emergency situations.
Once you've done that, if you haven't already replied to the email about a meeting next week, respond to say you will be back at school on X and would be happy to meet at whatever time. Then delete the email app from your phone and ensure you've removed any cookies. If necessary, you may want to block your manager's phone number from being able to call you during the next couple of weeks.

hedgehogger1 Fri 21-Aug-20 10:13:50

In this instance point out your term time only, and have no childcare available. Say you'll be happy to meet once term restarts. Or ignore it as you have no reason to be checking your work email when you're not being paid

Illusionordelusion Fri 21-Aug-20 16:10:10

Pastoral staff member here on a TTO contract - never in a million years would I respond during the holidays. Just don’t answer. You’re under no obligation.

Juiceey Sat 22-Aug-20 09:57:43

I was in this position OP last year. So I decided to get assertive about it.

I declined a meeting saying I was on a TTO contract and that seemed to get things moving along.

On my return I gave the head a breakdown of the hours I'd worked over the holidays and asked if I could claim overtime. When he said no, I then asked if my contract could be extended to 42 weeks a year instead and he agreed.

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