Directed time in schools in Northern Ireland

Teachers can only be directed for 195 days per year and 1,265 hours per year. The days that each individual teacher are required to be available should be set out in the time budget at the beginning of the year.

Teachers can volunteer to take extracurricular activities but if they are directed to take them, the working time limits apply.

Please note that the limits do not apply to principals or vice-principals.

The contractual position is that:

A teacher’s Directed Time of 1,265 hours per year (plus additional time needed to prepare and mark lessons) is the basic legal requirement for a teacher to satisfy their contractual obligations,

This is why the NASUWT insisted on ring-fencing 10% of directed time as PPA time. The amount of time needed to prepare and mark lessons is a matter for the professional judgement of the teacher.

Note: This paragraph does not refer to marking homework or controlled assessments which must therefore be accounted for within the directed time budget either as part of PPA time or as a standalone item.

Frequently asked questions

My colleague says that you must complete all your directed time in school. Is this true?

This depends on where your principal directs you to work. Teachers have to perform their duties at such times and such places as may ‘reasonably’ be specified by the principal. This could be in school, but there is nothing to stop a principal directing teachers to work at ‘school or home’.

I am an exams officer. Can I be directed to come into school when the results come out?

This could be reasonable for you, but you will need a day(s) off in lieu to make sure that your days do not exceed 195 days.

I teach PE/music. It says in my job description that I must take after-school activities or work weekends?

This could be reasonable for a PE/music teacher, but the limits of 1,265 hours per year and 195 days per year still apply.

Time budgets

The principal is responsible for determining a time budget for each member of the teaching staff, giving due regard to the individual responsibilities of each teacher.

The principal should seek to agree with each teacher the range of activities/duties which that teacher will undertake and the amount of time which that teacher will spend on each of these. The time budget should be distributed prior to the commencement of the teaching year.

The main point to bear in mind is that all time that a teacher is required to be on the premises (minus lunch) must be accounted for within the directed time budget.

Once you have been provided with your directed time budget, you should not be directed to undertake other duties by your employer.

Planning, preparation and assessment time

If a principal expects that a teacher will plan, prepare or assess, it must be included in the directed time budget. TNC 2020/01 provides for a minimum of 10% of directed time towards PPA time. This time is ‘ring- fenced’ and cannot be used for cover or other duties.


An annual schedule of meetings will be provided in advance of the academic year. Meetings for all staff, including those with teaching allowances, will be accommodated within directed time budgets.

The NASUWT recognise that the main concern of members in relation to meetings is not necessarily the meetings themselves, but the workload that arises from them. It is important that these duties are accounted for.

Frequently asked question

At the end of the meeting, the principal asked us to complete ‘xyz’ by next Thursday? Do I have to do this?

Only if this task was identified in the time budget in September. When meetings are properly planned, there should be no surprises.

Break times

Morning and afternoon breaks which are identified on your timetable count as part of your total hours of directed time, whether you are on duty or not.

Whilst it is likely that only a small number of staff undertake a duty on a rota basis, it is the case that all staff can be asked to be available for work should such a situation arise which necessitates this, e.g. an emergency.


Attendance at school assembly is included in directed time. Leading an assembly is considered to be class contact time in the time budget.


Registration is included in directed time. If a teacher is required to deliver learning or pastoral work, this period of time is considered to be class contact time in the time budget.

Teachers with teaching allowances

Some teachers will be in receipt of teaching allowances or special educational needs allowances for specific duties. These duties must also be allowed for within the time budget of 1,265 hours. This should reflect the time needed to do the job, rather than a specified number of periods/hours.

Residential trips

Principals cannot direct teachers to take pupils on educational visits involving overnight stays. Where this takes place on a voluntary basis, it is a matter of negotiation between the teacher and the principal as to the amount of directed time that will be allocated to this activity out of the annual time budget. If a principal refuses to allocate directed time, the teacher should not go on the trip.

Lunchtime supervision

Teachers are not required to undertake midday supervision. This applies even if the statutory 30 minutes are given for a lunch beak.

Lunch breaks are unpaid and do not count towards directed time.

Teachers are not required to remain on school premises during the lunch break.

Part-time teachers and directed time

Directed time for part-time teachers should be calculated on a pro rata basis.

What happens if I haven’t been given a directed time budget?

NASUWT members should only carry out tasks that are adequately allowed for in the time budget. If there is no time budget, a teacher cannot be asked to account for their work.

All the information above is contained within the TNC 2020 Agreement between Management and Trade Union Side of the Teachers’ Negotiating Committee. If your school is in breach of the agreement from 1st September 2020 please contact the NASUWT.


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