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Unfortunately, this is sometimes not possible due to your schoolís administrative burdens. But as long as you have written confirmation of your job offer and as many details connected to the job as possible (who and what youíll be teaching, your time table, your salary and so on) donít worry too much if you donít have your contract by your first day at school.
It can sometimes take a little while for local authorities or governors to get contracts out, but you should not have to wait any longer than the first two weeks of term.
Checking the contract is right for you
However, tempting as it might seem, donít fall into the first job that is offered to you without taking time to look over the finer details. Although any contract is only as permanent as the notice period enshrined in it, opting for anything other than a Ďpermanentí contract could potentially be problematic.
Remember that in order for a contract to count towards your induction period (referred to as being 'inductable') it must be for a term or more in length and the headteacher must agree that the post counts towards the induction year. ATL's advice is to opt for a full yearís contract if you can, but if you do decide to accept a temporary or fixed-term contract, make sure that you know its end date so that you can organise your job hunting.
If you accept a temporary contract, certain conditions apply to the length of time you can teach before starting your induction period. In short, you can accept temporary 'non-inductable' contracts for a maximum of four terms after gaining Qualified Teacher Status. However, you can appeal to have this four term limit increased. Once you have completed your induction period successfully, you can of course continue to teach on temporary contracts.
The type of contract you accept does not change the fact that you should be paid as a qualified teacher - ie be placed at least at main pay scale point 1 (M1) on the pay scale. Check your contract or letter of appointment to ensure that you will receive the correct salary.
How much notice do you have to give if you want to leave your job?
It's important to check your contract for exact details of how much notice you have to give when you want to leave your job.
For teachers in the maintained sector, notice periods are agreed between employers and teacher unions. Typically, teachers resign at three dates through the school year, giving half a termís notice. These are around the end of October, the end of February and the end of May.
What you need to clarify before I accept a job offer
There are certain terms not written in to your contract of employment that should be agreed before you accept your post.
As a potential new employee, you should receive a written statement containing certain terms of your employment, this does not always include 'implied terms'. These can be just as important as written terms, such as pay and hours.
These 'implied terms' may not usually be spelt out in your contract, but the law does consider them to be central to any employer/employee relationship. They cover more general duties that are placed both on you and your employer.
Your headteacher's duties as an employer
Your headteacherís duties to you are:
Your duties as an employee
To obey lawful and reasonable orders. All orders should be consistent with your contract duties. You are not obliged to obey any order which is either unlawful or would put your safety in danger.
Fidelity: you should serve your employer faithfully and not act against them in any way.To exercise reasonable care and skill. You will be expected to have the necessary skills to ably undertake your work. It is therefore incumbent on both parties to have regard to their respective duties if a harmonious and productive working relationship is to be maintained.
Terms and conditions of independent schools teachers
Independent schools are free to offer a wide range of terms and conditions to new staff. Although there are often similarities with national terms and conditions in the maintained sector, you should take nothing for granted when you accept a new job at an independent school.
Ask for a copy of the contract of employment (and relevant documents, e.g. licence to occupy school accommodation) before you finally accept the post.
Donít be afraid of appearing pushy by asking questions. Taking a new job is a major commitment. The ability to give you a contract on request and to answer your questions openly says a lot about a school and its management.
Read a draft contract carefully. If there is anything not covered or which you do not understand, raise it with your school. Ask ATL to check a new contract if you have any concerns about it Ė donít forget to tell ATL what concerns you.
If you are asked to accept a job without seeing the contract, then one option is to accept the post conditionally on agreeing the terms and conditions or accept, subject to contract. However, if you accept a post conditionally, the school in turn might be able to withdraw the offer without being in breach of contract.
Keep a note of what was said at interview and in conversations afterwards and keep offer letters and relevant documents. They could have contractual importance. Never assume that the school offers a particular term or condition. If something is important to you, make sure you ask about it.
If you do start a job and have received nothing more than a letter of appointment, you are entitled, within eight weeks, to a statement of your main terms and conditions (contact your ATL rep or branch secretary for more advice on this matter).
If things are not quite as you expected, always raise your concerns promptly with your headteacher, bursar or manager.
Specific issues you may wish to check
For the School Teachersí Pay and Conditions Document and DfES guidance go to the Teachernet website.
On the Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales visit the Employersí Organisation for Local Government website: www.lge.gov.uk.
Help and support
For further advice on this issue, ATL members can speak to their school rep, their branch secretary or their regional official. They can also call the London (020 7930 6441), Cardiff (029 2046 5000), Belfast (028 9078 2020) or Edinburgh (0131 272 2748) offices or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For out of hours enquiries, call the out of office hours helpline on 020 7782 1612 (Monday-Friday, 5-8pm during term time).
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