Members of the NASUWT are covered by a lawful ballot for action short of strike action and strike action in furtherance of the trade dispute on workload, pay and conditions of service, pensions and job loss.

By participating fully in the NASUWT industrial action, NASUWT members are Standing up for Standards and defending their professionalism.

Following the national action instructions and guidance is helping to ensure that members receive their contractual entitlements and can work effectively to focus on teaching and learning.

Limit on Cover

Cover for absence is not an effective use of teacher time and teachers should only be rarely deployed to cover and only in unforeseen circumstances.

The NI Regulations 1987 require all teachers including the principal to teach and to be available for cover.

The NASUWT national action instructions provide important protections for members. Currently, the NASUWT national action instructions limit the amount of cover to be undertaken by teachers at a school to 20 hours per year.

Teachers must not exceed the maximum teaching hours (25 hours in primary and special schools, 23.5 hours in a secondary school) in any week.

Schools must take into account time allocated for management responsibilities and time allocated for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA).

Beginning teachers (BTs) should only be required to undertake cover in exceptional circumstances.

Policy

All schools must have a cover policy agreed with the trade unions that should include arrangements for planned and unplanned absences.

The core arrangements must be monitored on a regular basis (at least monthly) to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of cover duties amongst teaching staff.

Legal Position 

In accordance with the NASUWT national action instructions, members should note the current legal position that:

  • in schools with an average daily enrolment of 222 pupils or fewer, in primary 1 and primary 2 classes in schools with an average daily enrolment greater than 222 pupils, and in nursery classes in primary schools, a teacher other than a supply teacher shall not be required to provide such cover;

  • in schools with an average daily enrolment greater than 222 pupils, a teacher other than a supply teacher shall not be required to provide such cover after the second day on which a teacher, other than a teacher of a primary 1 or primary 2 class or of a nursery class in a primary school, is absent or otherwise not available, or from the first day if the fact that the teacher would be absent or otherwise not available for a period exceeding two days was known to and agreed by the employing authority in advance.