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Reasonable accommodations for depression?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by MissMinton, Apr 1, 2017.

  1. MissMinton

    MissMinton New commenter

    Hi all, I posted a while ago about being signed off with depression. The good news is I've started a phased return to school and everyone is being very kind, supportive and welcoming (seeing all the posts on here about awful treatment, I realise how lucky I am!). My year 11s have been taken off me entirely for stress reasons, and I am just supporting and observing for a couple of weeks to settle back in.

    However, I'm still thinking that something needs to change in my timetable for next year or I will still not be able to cope. My depression is medicated and recurs often enough that it falls under the Equalities Act as a disability. If certain adjustments could be made I would have a better chance of staying in work and staying safe.

    My question is, what adjustments would be reasonable?? Does anyone have experience with this? What I would like to do is teach KS3 and maybe 5, but in KS4, stick with supporting or doing intervention work so the enormous weight of the exam stress is relieved. I have major problems with self-blame, loss of confidence, and decision fatigue with my GCSE groups. If part of my timetable were devoted to support like this, it would also reduce my general responsibility and decision-making load, which is important for my wellbeing.

    Does that sound completely nuts? I'm afraid to ask my HoD because she is so kind and caring and I don't want to take advantage of that to ask for something ridiculous. I'm afraid to seem weak or unreasonable. Any thoughts??
  2. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    It depends on timetabling. In my department we couldn't realistically employ someone who couldn't do ks4. I also don't think being prepared to do ks5 but not 4 helps your argument.

    It isn't taking advantage to ask. You will have to accept that it may not be possible, out of timetabling though. Also supporting in the long term may not be viable. Especially if staff see you getting paid the same for less work being unfair. That may not be right, but in a time of reduced budgets...

    Is going p/t a better option?
    sbkrobson likes this.
  3. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    We recently had a thread from somebody who was unhappy about only being given KS3 classes. So there are reasons for and against being given whatever class, and the nub of the matter was the unfairness in allocation.
    What you need to do is somehow counter that unfairness to achieve what you need, and you are in a position to exploit the Duty Of Care which is right at the front of your managers' minds at the moment., but what you cannot do is exactly as in previous post, put your HoD in a position where they would be demonstrating unfairness to others.
    The best and most clear cut way is to ask if you can avoid those class altogether. An ancillary role in any class will be seen as "lesser input" than others who actually own the group. So I'd go to HoD asap whilst timetabling is not yet cemented for next year, and explain that you have taken advice and support in the things which are likely to tip you over the edge. And then ask, would it not be easier for them if you had no KS4 classes, as they might need to worry about the inevitable strain on your health. You are, due to medical conditions, wary of factors which might end up letting classes down through absence.
    All in confidence. Probably in writing.Make sure you ask for their opinion. Make sure you state understanding of "fair allocation" Most importantly, make sure you reiterate that you are responding to the medical advice recently given, in order to sustain good enough health to do your job properly.
    Be prepared for a "no". If you do end up with KS4 classes and it tips you over the edge, take time off again, and they will have no recourse to any sense of blame as you have prewarned.

    I really don't think that asking for a support role will work. Too much legitimate "jealousy" a) from class owner and b) from those who don't get support. in their groups. and c) I cannot imagine staffing would accommodate that, numbers wise.
    DYNAMO67 likes this.
  4. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I don't think ti would be reasonable to insist you have no exam classes, but it is entirely reasonable to ask.
    It depends on your subject and so how many people teach it. English or maths, you can probably have all KS3 with no problem at all because the departments are large.

    I can't imagine for a moment a school will be able to pay you to act as a TA in the exam classes. Finances just won't allow it.

    Speak to your HOD and ask.
    DYNAMO67 likes this.
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    If you don't ask, you won't get.
    It sounds as if some of the work you do would be more analogous to a TA's duties.
    Think about seeing if you can negotiate a part TA, part teaching timetable. (Mrs P did this many years ago after pregnancy).
    Think about doing part time.
    Some time in the week without work may well do your mental health a power of good. It did for me!
  6. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    This might require a reduction in wages, so if that is affordable, then definitely suggest it.
  7. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    On the other hand though, In our school all KS4 maths is taught at the same time... 7 groups, 7 teachers for example. At least with option blocks I can put myself, say, in two blocks and teach two groups at separate times.

    Could you look to lose Y11 classes only as a middle ground OP? Teach Y10 but not 11? Whilst not ideal, it would leave your HoD more flexibility. It also keeps you involved, but not at the sharp end, so to speak.

    I still find it strange though that you are prepared to teach KS5 but not 4? this surely has the same pressure? If you are not prepared to teach KS4 then for me, as a HoD, I would not give you A Level. I see it as unfair on staff who have bought them through to lose them, and there is a lack of continuity for pupils. After all, you won't have taught them for a few years. I know this sounds harsh, but I think you can't justify it in terms of staffing. I also feel that it diminishes your reason for asking, as you are essentially saying you can deal with the pressure for them but not GCSE?

    I agree with @sbkrobson I think you are better asking for all KS3 or nothing.
  8. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I think you should work on your attitude to GCSE groups through CBT/counselling.

    It isn't really the groups or timetable that needs to change. You are a qualified teacher and you are prepared to take KS5 classes. So you need to work through why you struggle so much with KS4.

    We're talking September! I'd not ask school to make that particular accommodation. I think you have to be looking to help yourself a bit more and get to the root of the matter.
  9. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I think there is something in this. The KS4 thing is a symptom of a problem that needs to be managed. I am sorry to say this, but whilst you may get somewhere with losing KS4 for a year, I don't see how it can be a long term solution within secondary teaching.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  10. MissMinton

    MissMinton New commenter

    Thanks for the advice, but as my diagnosis of depression and the fact that I take medication suggests, I have actually heard of (and tried) CBT, and I see a therapist regularly for counselling for my depression. I have been working with her for two years and she thinks this sort of accommodation could be a good measure to take to help me cope while we work through my problems and I decide what to do in the long term. It's an alternative to stepping back to being a full-time TA, or leaving teaching altogether, at this stage when I am still in a depressive episode and shouldn't be making long-term decisions like that, though at the moment they feel like the only option. Therapy isn't something that could help me "work through" this deepset mental health problem in a summer. I resent the implication that asking the school for accommodations means I am not "helping myself."

    I know the KS5 thing sounds very odd, but the reason is that at KS5, the classes are much smaller and the students are expected to be more independent. I teach English, which means there is a big difference between KS4, where they all have to be there, and KS5, where they have chosen it. This is also all affected by the new GCSE exams, which are notoriously much too difficult and causing distress and anxiety for English teachers up and down the country this year.

    My HoD has already agreed that I won't have to teach year 11 next year--I asked and she immediately said yes, we could do that, and said she might try me with some KS5 instead. I am still worried about teaching year 10, though, and still worried about carrying a full teaching load. I have real, medical problems with self-blame spirals and decision fatigue brought on by too much responsibility--*not* too much work, per se. These are not things that will go away by wishing them away or positive thinking.

    Other teachers in my department co-teach, have support from other teachers, or do intervention work, which gives me some hope that it might not be entirely out of line to ask for.

    Genuinely, thanks for the advice, all--I know that really I need to just talk to her, and I'm lucky to have someone so supportive and understanding in my corner.
  11. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    I think you need to ignore everyone on here. The matter is between you and your school. I hope that they do everything they can to support you, and they do sound like they want to judging by what you've said.

    I'm an English teacher too, and I think it depends on the size of the school and your department whether or not your needs can practically be met long term - I've got some colleagues who only teach KS4 and 5 (seemingly by choice), while in some schools some teachers don't want KS5, so why can't you just teach KS3?

    Good luck x
  12. rachelsays

    rachelsays New commenter

    As blueskydreaming says, it completely depends on your school and it is impossible for us to advise without knowing what is feasible based on the number of pupils and teachers you have.

    In some schools it is perfectly possible for teachers to fill a timetable just with KS3, in others this wouldn't work due to staffing numbers. All you can do is ask and see what can be done for you. I'm an English HOD and I certainly wouldn't say no to someone just wanting KS3 if I could make it work within the timetable.

    Good luck!
  13. internationalschools

    internationalschools New commenter

    I am a teacher with GAD that I take medication for, so I do understand mental health issues can make things very difficult. However, I think it might not be possible for the HOD to allow you to cream off the best classes. Most people don't like teaching KS4 in a comp, as 14/15 year old kids are the worst in terms of behaviour. It doesn't seem right that any teacher can avoid this, and I think everyone needs to "take one for the team" and share the difficult classes among everyone. However, going part-time would allow you to recuperate more after you've had a difficult class, rather than being thrust into it day after day.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  14. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    I agree but think it must also suit the others in your department. It must not mean that they are picking up your work. For all you know they might also be suffering from wrs or depression. Is part time an option?
    grumpydogwoman and DYNAMO67 like this.
  15. alexanderosman

    alexanderosman Occasional commenter

    I think that what a lot of posters here are missing is that the equality act says that an employee with a disability should not be put at a disadvantage because of it, and they have a right to reasonable adjustments. Therefore if they are saying that not teaching ks4 would help them to be at work and functioning well, which they would otherwise struggle to do, the school have a duty to do this unless it is actually impossible for some reason- I don't believe a possible perceived unfairness to others in the department is a strong enough reason for it to be considered unreasonable.
    Why should the OP have to go part time and take a pay cut due to her disability if she could continue working full time with this adjustment?
    If others in the department suffer with wrs or depression, it's their responsibility to get whatever adjustments they need, not that of the OP to risk her health to accommodate them.
  16. MissMinton

    MissMinton New commenter

    Thank you, Alexander, I really appreciate that. I was feeling a little alarmed!
  17. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I agree 100% with adjustments to keep the OP in the classroom. It is the realistic and reasonable adjustments though isn't it? If it is possible to only teach KS3 then it is reasonable. For a lot of places- and I speak as someone who has handled departmental timetables- it won't be- more so I feel in a core department... You have to bear in mind the workload such an arrangement would push onto other staff. That is why I would suggest looking to drop year 11 rather than KS4 entirely.

    From my point of view, is asking to be an intervention teacher an acceptable adjustment? possibly if there is slack in the timetable and it can be demonstrated that this is a teaching role. A role that is essentially a TA? No. I don't think that would be a reasonable adjustment unless it was matched in pay. On other teachers or TA's. Do i think that unfairness is a strong enough reason not to do this? Really, yes and I am sorry if that sounds harsh. This is because it isn't an adjustment, rather a change of role completely.

    Sorry to the OP- sometimes these discussions can sometimes forget there is a person at the end of it. Hopefully though it has given you a few things to consider. Most importantly you seem to be in a strong, supportive department.
  18. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Why do you think you struggle with exam pressure at KS4 but not KS5?

    Anyhow - if you don't ask then you don't get. It's isn't a mad request. It isn't off-the-wall. So go ahead and ask.

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