In Northern Ireland, grant-aided schools operating according to the Teachers' (Terms and Conditions of Employment) Regulations (Northern Ireland 1987) (and the Amendment Regulations of 1988, No. 299) must open for 195 days.

Of these, a maximum of 190 days involve teaching children and young people. Up to 10 days may be taken as non-teaching days when teachers may be asked to undertake other duties related to their role as a teacher. These are often known as in-service training days (INSET). These limits do not apply if you are a principal or vice-principal paid on the leadership range.

The Regulations state that a classroom teacher can only be directed by the principal to work for up to a maximum of 1,265 hours over 195 days of the year. This is calculated on a pro rata basis for part-time teachers.

Whilst schools have the autonomy to decide the structure and duration of their school day, including  the start and finish as well as school sessions and breaks, schools should continue to employ teachers in accordance with the provisions of the Regulations and TNC Agreements during the coronavirus pandemic, including the provisions relating to teachers' days of work, working time and duties.

This also applies to the current advice and guidance from the DE, including suggestions involving the staggering of the start and end of the school day and the way in which the school is structured to maintain social distancing.

The NASUWT is clear that any changes must be done in consultation with the school workforce and their recognised trade unions, as well as parents and the local community, recognising the potential impacts on those affected.

Furthermore, when organising these, schools must give teachers one break of reasonable length either between school sessions or between the hours of 12 noon and 2.00pm, during which teachers cannot be directed to undertake lunchtime supervision.

Given the nature of the pandemic and changing Executive guidance on how to manage this, it is advised that schools leave at least 50 hours in the directed time budget which are unallocated and can be used for emergencies, providing that these do not conflict with the Regulations and TNC agreements and have been agreed with the NASUWT.

However, your working time should be clearly defined in your contract of employment, and, under the Health and Safety at Work Act, the NASUWT believes that must be subject to consultation with the school workforce and their recognised trade unions, if this forms part of a revised risk assessment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the opening of schools from September.

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

Further details of the allocation of directed time can be found on our Directed Time page.

If your school is seeking to change the school day without adhering to the advice and guidance above, the Union wants to hear from you. Please contact us with the following information:

  • your full name;
  • your membership number (or your date of birth and postcode if you cannot locate it); and
  • the details of the school you are employed at, including information about the local authority.