In September 2004, an annual limit on cover for absent colleagues (whether planned or unplanned absence) was introduced. This limit was initially set at 38 hours per year, with no weekly or termly limit specified. The National Agreement also indicated:
- that schools should keep a record of cover undertaken by each teacher
- that there is a duty upon Headteachers to ensure that all other routes to cover the class have been exhausted before using a teacher employed at the school
- that where teachers employed at the school are to be used to cover for absent colleagues, Headteachers must ensure that this is distributed evenly across the teaching staff
There was also advice provided on how leadership and management time and gained time can be used in relation to cover.
From September 2009, teachers should be rarely covering for absent teachers and schools will need to look at alternative methods of providing cover. ‘Rarely cover’ should mean ‘not at all under normal circumstances’ and schools should plan with the assumption that teaching staff do not cover for absent colleagues. WAMG state that ‘when devising strategies to implement ‘rarely cover’ schools should bear in mind that ‘rarely’ does not mean ‘never’.
Where teachers do provide cover, the headteacher is required to ensure that cover for the lessons of absent teachers is shared equitably among teachers in the school (including the headteacher), taking into account their teaching and other duties and the desirability of not using a teacher at the school until all other reasonable means of providing cover have been exhausted.
There are a number of options open to schools to address unplanned absences, which include the following and are discussed further in the 'Rarely Cover' Strategies discussion paper (see below).
- use of supply teachers
- use of floating teachers
- use of learning centres
- use of a study hall
- re-organisation of current practice/calendar
- development of well-being practices
- use of cover supervisors
- use of HLTAs
'Rarely Cover' Strategies - A discussion paper covering these strategies has been produced by EPS to enable schools to start engaging in consideration of each individual school strategy to comply with rarely cover.
WAMG guidance (WAMG was disbanded by the coalition government, but their publications are still valid. On the LGE website (www.lge.gov.uk/lge/core/page.do?pageId=1157845) you can find information on the 'Rarely Cover Implementation Process' and a Summary of the Changes made to Teachers Pay & Conditions Document in 2009'.
The Cover Resource Pack and guidance provided by the TDA in 2004 is also still a relevant source of information. Schools are reminded to be aware of the requirements around Assigned Teachers in developing support staff roles.
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