Teacher Resignations: What To Do?

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shutterstock_217461136 Office chair with a RESIGNED sign isolated on white background


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How should you resign from your teaching position?

It’s the season for teachers moving on to new horizons and this is the key week for resignations. In my time as a teacher, applying for jobs, handing in my own resignations as well as receiving them, here is my seasoned advice.


First and foremost, all teachers are bound by their school contract and The Burgundy Book which influences the (STPCD) School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document. These may vary according to schools and level of employment, but typically teachers are expected to give one term’s notice before leaving any school. For senior teachers, it is often two full terms and more for more senior posts i.e. executive headteacher.

The Burgundy Book (section 3, paragraph 4.1) national conditions of service agreement for teachers asks for under two months’ notice and in the summer term, three months’ notice, terminating at the end of that school term.

For the purposes of resignations and notice periods, the dates of the three school terms are deemed to be:

  • for the autumn term, from 1 September to 31 December inclusive;
  • for the spring term, from 1 January to 30 April inclusive;
  • for the summer term, from 1 May to 31 August inclusive.

Therefore, teachers who wish to leave their jobs should observe the following deadlines when giving their notice:

  • to leave at 31 December, give notice by no later than 31 October;
  • to leave at 30 April, give notice by no later than 28 February;
  • to leave at 31 August, give notice by no later than 31 May.

It is important to note that these provisions only allow teachers to resign their posts with effect from the end of term.

What to do?

So, if you have an interview or have accepted a new post, what is the best resignation advice and what should you do next?

  1. Speak with your line-manager.
  2. Inform them of your plans ahead and the potential decisions you need to make.
  3. Consider all the various pros/cons once accepting your new job. What is still left for negotiation? Start date? Salary? Part-time hours? etc.
  4. Consider what position you will leave your school in to replace you? The more time schools have, the better your school HR team will have to advertise and recruit somebody new. This will also leave you with plenty time to hand over key projects and ensure your teaching classes are left in a good position.
  5. When writing your letter of resignation, you should state that, although you are giving two months’ notice to take effect on 30th April or 31st May, you will be starting work at your new workplace from the start of the summer term or new academic year (e.g. 1st September) and do not expect to be paid from that date as you will no longer be available for work.

There is no obligation to do so, but often advice on the process involved in another school may be given or explained. Of course, sharing your plans may not be possible for several reasons: confidentiality, conflict of interest or worse, reprisal. Some may also feel they want to keep their options private until a decision has to be made, or references and interviews are requested.

What not to do?

And what should you avoid?

  1. Ignore your current school. Share your plans with somebody.
  2. At some point, your headteacher or senior member of staff will receive a reference request. It is always good practice/manners to go and ask for permission.
  3. Don’t just assume that somebody will write you a glowing reference with less than 12 hours notice. If you give them a ‘heads up’, they can start preparing what to write in advance and ensure you are best placed for your new job …
  4. Don’t apply for every job available! Your school will likely have a ‘number of days’ granted paid-leave to facilitate you finding a new place of work. Sometimes arrangements can be made with your headteacher in exceptional circumstances. For example, relocating. Sometimes a one-day interview may require two actual days traveling and returning in-between the process.
  5. If you leave employment without giving the full amount of notice required by law, your employer may be prepared to grant an early release from your contract. However, you could also expose yourself to unfortunate consequences. Worst case, references or pay could be withheld. However, this is very rare in my experience.

shutterstock_369319115 Letter of resignation and a red pencil

Image: Shutterstock

A teacher has no legal right to a reference at all and cannot challenge its contents unless it is inaccurate and/or malicious.” (Source)



18 thoughts on “Teacher Resignations: What To Do?

  1. Hey there!

    My girlfriend is quite worried about this. She basically has sent in her letter of resignation and also signed the new contract to start on the 22nd May. She signed these today on the 14th March. I should say that she decided that she could not stand to be at this school as her head of department calls her bad names and treats her poorly.

    In your experience, other than the bad recommendations from the headteacher and withheld pay. Is there any other things they may do to her?

    I appreciate the time to read this and respond, so thank you.

  2. I have resigned a month back .. and they only give me salary of the days I go to school and not for the whole month .. is this legal ? What should I do ?

      1. Hi

        I am unhappy in my current school. I have a job offer for September but because I’m past the 31 May cut off date, my head will not allow me to resign before 31 Oct. My head said that there will be consequences if I resign before that. The other school may not wait. What is the worse case scenario for breaching the contract? Will they seek legal action against me ?

      2. You could be asked to return your salary at best, at worst, the school may take legal action, but I suspect beyond initial threat in writing, it may not lead to anything.

  3. Hi there,

    I’m suffering from stress at work. I provided a medical note and sent an email to the principal stating my concerns and asking for early resignation. No response so far. My contract ends in August. Can I hand in a resignation with 1 month notice due to stress, or can I only send a resignation with a notice according to the contract which is an august? What is the best way to handle this?

    1. You may be able to ask re. extenuating circumstances and it’s often at the school’s discretion. Worst case, you will need to serve notice as per your contract – as you would expect the school to do so also, but circumstances are the exception. Good luck.

  4. Hi there,

    If I tell my headteacher there is a position elsewhere that I want to go for and the interview is before the resignation deadline, will he still want my resignation beforehand or allow me to try for the position and if I don’t get it still have my current job in the new academic year?

    1. You can go for the job interview first. You do not need to resign and hand in any letter until the actual resignation date. However, your school will stipulate ‘how many days’ you can be off-site attending interviews. Check how many are paid/not paid.

  5. If the resignation date actually falls in the half term holiday and you find your dream job advertised just before half term and the advertised job application cut off date is the final day of the half term break, is it too late to apply for it? I have messaged my deputy Headteacher for a reference but if the cut off date for handing in your notice is 31st May and the closing date for applications for the dream job is 2nd June, (with the interview of shortlisted applicants a few days later), what are my chances of getting an early release from my contract in order to take up the dream job at the start of September? I am suffering from stress caused by workload, atmosphere and undermining/bullying, which I have reported but it has got worse. I dont want to make a fuss or cause any trouble. I just want to be allowed to leave.

  6. Hi, I’m handing in my notice tomorrow (31st May). My new job is not in a school and starts early August. Do I have to tell my current school this, or can I still get paid by them up to 31st August, as I’ve been told the pay over the summer holidays is tied in to the actual work already done since the start of the academic year.

    1. You do not need to tell your school, but you are technically not declaring full details – plus be aware that you ARE employed until the end of 31st August, so the school CAN technically ask you to complete tasks at home or on-site during that time (within reason).

  7. I’m going to be leaving my current job at the end of this year but need to leave a week before the end of term, is that possible? And what would happen with pay in that situation? If I’ve done 38/39 weeks work, then should I receive 38/39ths of holiday pay too? Or will my pay stop at the end of July when I leave?

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