How does your school manage cover for (unplanned or planned) absent staff?
The purpose of ‘cover reporting’ is to communicate equity and transparency, as well as ensure value for money across the school. It is also a health check to ensure timetables are accurate. When viewing the document (hard copy in the staff room), there is an important need for context, so please do contemplate individual / departmental circumstances before drawing any conclusions about workload.
We are now in a position to publish a ‘cover report’ once every half-term. It has taken several months to get to this position, but to be able to publish a transparent document that is fair and in line with union guidance and local policy is tricky business.
Managing the Workforce:
Last year, I wrote about part of my leadership role; I line-manage our school’s cover manager and oversee day-to-day cover. In terms of making sure the school is functional each day, this is a critical role within the school; a job that requires a deep understanding of curriculum, staffing and well-being issues, as well as a heightened degree of the needs of students and teachers every day.
Firstly, our teachers ‘rarely‘ do cover.
If their expertise is required, it is often for emergencies or extenuating circumstances. E.g. specialism or a member of staff has had to go home during the day for illness / childcare / emergency. If staff are used, it is largely because they may be ‘under-load’ on their timetable for various reasons, and deployed in-line with other staff of the same level of responsibility
Reporting on cover is a valuable process for any school. It is important to regularly re-visit the needs of teachers and students, as well as completing a timetable health check’. We make it a half-termly exercise.
Managing over 100 teachers, timetables never sit still. Teaching staff may be re-deployed throughout the year to meet vacancy and timetabling needs, as well as staff arriving or leaving ‘in-year’. With every member of staff having various roles and responsibilities, it is also important that their own commitments during the day – to be able to do their job effectively – is also balanced in timetabling and cover allocation.
The image below shows a snippet of Term 2 cover from Monday 31st October to Friday 16th December 2016. This data reports all teaching staff and actual loading versus no. of covers for half-term 2. I have explained what each column represents below (from left to right).
Note, the data is entirely fictitious:
- 1st column = Name of teacher (I have replaced this with a fictitious role / responsibility)
- 2nd column = Loading for 2016/17 based on role/responsibility
- 3rd column = Actual loading (inc. lessons and duties, not meetings)
- 4th column = No. of lessons under loading per week if applicable
- 5th column = Cover equivalent throughout 7-week term.
- 6th column = Covers actually given throughout term.
- 7th column = Total covers given in relation to loading over term 2. (i.e. Negative number = times not used. Zero = on par. Positive number = how many covers above loading.)
- 8th column = Notes for timetable edits …
- What is your school policy on cover? It is ‘rarely cover’?
- In a climate where school budgets are reducing, how do minimise impact on teachers’ timetables?
- How do you protect the well-being of your teachers?
- How do you balance cover during ‘pinch point’ in the year? e.g. assessment and reports.
- How do you sure equity?
- How do you ensure value for money?
- What creative ideas could you deploy to offer: CPD for all staff? weekly NQT meeting? double-duty staff?
Reporting on cover is a valuable process for any school. What does your school do to communicate with its staff?