A Guide to Directed Time in Schools in Northern Ireland


Working hours are essential in order to help schools and teachers plan so that the school day is effectively managed and teachers are able to achieve a satisfactory balance between work and home. 

Working hours should be set out as part of your terms and conditions when you start work. In schools, this is referred to as directed time.

This guidance provides you with key information about your rights at work regarding your working hours/directed time.

Teachers' working time

All grant-aided schools in Northern Ireland operate according to the Jordanstown Agreement (also know as the Teachers' (Terms and Conditions of Employment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1987 (as amended in 1988)) and subsequent TNC Circulars. The most important of these is the Workload Agreement (TNC 2011/8).

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.

A maximum of 190 days involve teaching pupils/students, the remainder being non-teaching days where you may be asked to undertake other duties related to your role as a teacher. These are often known as in-service training days (INSET). These limits do not apply to principals and vice-principals.

You should be provided with a directed time budget at the beginning of each academic year based around the school day, which identifies the number of hours in which you are being directed to undertake the professional duties of a teacher, including your timetabled teaching as well as any meetings and duties such as parental consultations, planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time, leadership and management time (as appropriate) and meetings.

You do not have to be directed to work right up to the limit of 1,265 hours.

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

Morning and afternoon breaks

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).


Attending assemblies counts as part of your directed time budget.

Lunchtime supervision

Teachers are not required to undertake lunchtime supervision (this applies even if the statutory 30 minutes are given for a lunch-beak).

Planning, preparation and assessment time

If a principal expects that a teacher will plan, prepare or assess, it must be included on the directed time budget. The NASUWT expects that schools will allocate a minimum of 10% of directed time towards PPA time.

Time given for PPA time cannot be used for cover.

Leadership and management time

All duties associated with teaching allowances and special educational needs allowance duties must be included on the time budget (TNC 2011/8 Appendix 3).

Part-time teachers and directed time

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

Working Time Regulations

Schools and employers must ensure that they adhere to the Working Time Regulations (1998) which set a maximum working week of 48 hours, taking into account teachers’ directed time and additional hours of non-directed time.

What 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.