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contract 'two possibly three' terms - very unsettling

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by onbekende, Sep 19, 2020.

  1. onbekende

    onbekende New commenter

    I've joined a new school in September and am really enjoying being there however my contract states this will be for 'two possibly three terms'. I asked my manager for some clarity the other day, and she said they're very happy with how I've hit the ground running etc and that I shouldn't worry as the departmental restructure they're planning 'almost certainly' won't happen September, so it's 'more than likely' it will be for three terms. Unfortunately I didn't really find the choice of words particularly reassuring!

    I do really like the place and would like to see out the academic year there and rejigging the staffing at Easter seems like a mad decision not just because it doesn't suit me but also thinking of my 2 year 11 classes and my year 13s - surely they've had quite enough disruption because of the Covid situation!?

    Any thoughts on how to address this? One very supportive colleague thinks I should just get applying for other things and then when I request time off for interview, it will focus their mind and I'll get my answer one way or another - but to be honest, I'd rather not play these kind of games! Is this really how things are now?
    agathamorse and Piranha like this.
  2. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    Worst case scenario it's going to be for two terms. So assume that is what it is going to be and plan for that. That way if it does happen you are not surprised and have a plan.

    I agree with your colleague to some degree, knowing you are looking for the next job will help focus their mind. You are not doing it to get them to make their mind up though, you are doing it to protect yourself from not having a job after Easter. You can hope that they will ask you to stay on for three terms and if they do you can cross that bridge when you get to it. Also, you may find, whilst you are looking, an even better job at an amazing school comes up that will mean you get paid over the summer break as well next year as well.
  3. Corvuscorax20

    Corvuscorax20 Lead commenter

    sounds like you have been given an honest appraisal of the situation. I am not sure what you mean by "how to address it" surely there is nothing to address? You know what the situation is.. There is nothing else to know or address
  4. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    A proper enjoyment contract cannot state that its duration is ‘two possibly three terms’.

    A fixed term contract would state actual dates, e.g. 1/9/20 - 31/12/20.

    Or, one could have a temporary contract, with no specified end date, which terminates at a certain event, e.g. somebody returning from maternity leave.

    ‘Terms’ is far too loose a term for an employment contract and different people could interpret it in different ways (1-6 or seasonal).
  5. onbekende

    onbekende New commenter

    This is part of what concerned me. It seems like very informal language for an official contract, and it's quite unclear when exactly the second 'term' ends and when I'd be paid until (ie the end of the spring term, some time in March or 30.4.21).
    agathamorse likes this.
  6. sparklepig2002

    sparklepig2002 Star commenter

    Ask for clarification - in writing if possible.
    agathamorse, Marshall and onbekende like this.
  7. missmunchie

    missmunchie Occasional commenter

    Your exam groups will be on study leave for the last term. They are trying to cut costs as it is likely your timetable would be much lighter after Easter.
    However, this year due to Covid, I taught my exam groups online until the very end of the school year in order to assess them and predict grades. Maybe they are just hedging their bets to see how this year pans out. Seems very unfair given that you are teaching to A Level.
    onbekende likes this.
  8. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It seems vague.
    Trouble is, jobs starting at Easter are thin on the ground. If they don't confirm finish date before January, I would start applying for jobs, maybe a reference request will clarify their minds.
    If they ask you not to return after Easter, the exam groups are their problem, not your's.
  9. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    Ask for a proper contract. One with dates.

    I find it difficult to believe that anybody who has even the slighest clue what they were doing would issue one as you describe. Call whoever does the HR.
  10. bajan

    bajan Occasional commenter

    Seems very strange. When you attended the interview for the job was it for a permanent or temporary post? If temporary, did they state how long the contract was for?
  11. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

    Assume it's for 2 terms and look for a job starting after Easter. If you get an interview, you can tell the HT (when informing them) that you can't afford a term without a job. They can then either offer you a 3rd term, or face losing you: their choice.
    onbekende, agathamorse and Marshall like this.
  12. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    If you are working in a school which uses the Burgundy Book, then terms are very clearly defined as four month periods starting at the beginning of January, May and September. If not, you do need to get this clarified, along with notice periods. Assuming it is the traditional three terms in a year, I can see no harm, in speaking to the Head in January to say that you would prefer to stay at the school (as long as you still do!) but need certainty, so will start to look for a job from Easter, unless you get an extension in writing which guarantees your employment until the end of August. It is better to tell the Head that you are applying rather than wait until you get an interview, given that a reference may be needed before it gets to interview.

    Sadly, even if you had a contract for a whole year, it is still likely that Burgundy Book or similar conditions will apply, which means that they could give you notice in February to leave at the end of April. I doubt if many employers would not have a shorter notice period built into their fixed term contracts. Totally off the point, but football clubs sometimes end up paying a fortune to players they don't need any more. I have wondered about how fixed term contract laws apply to them.
    onbekende, phlogiston and agathamorse like this.
  13. thejudgesscoresarein

    thejudgesscoresarein Established commenter

    Totally inappropriate to be restructuring at Easter, especially as the peak exam season approaches. A restructure would be best taking place in September, or if necessary- January. It will cause disruption to the student’s learning.
    onbekende likes this.
  14. onbekende

    onbekende New commenter

    Thanks for all these replies. I'm going to speak to HR tomorrow to clarify re the potential end date. I take the point about the Burgundy book above, in which case maybe I'm worrying over nothing, but I'd still feel happier with a contract that said something like "fixed term until 30.4.21, with the possibility of extension until 31.8.21 by mutual agreement" than the current "two, possibly three terms".

    Re the 3rd term, totally agree it makes no sense to restructure in April but I guess I don't make the rules, so if things don't get clearer in the coming weeks, I'll just have to start looking for something else, as I don't want to run the risk of no job and no salary for the Summer term, if I can avoid it.

    Thanks again all.
    Piranha likes this.
  15. sooooexcited

    sooooexcited Established commenter

    At Christmas, politely sit down with the head and say that due to your contract dates, you'll need to start looking for jobs early in the spring term and ask nicely for a reference.

    This will make them either clarify/extend the contract if they want you to stay or, you've been professional and you know where you stand.
    onbekende and agathamorse like this.

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