Resignation dates for Maintained schools in England and Wales
Resignation dates in academies are usually the same as in maintained schools, but you will need to check your contract. In Independent schools, the notice varies from school to school so you will need to check your contract. Check out the NEU and NASUWT website links at the bottom of the page for more information about notice periods.
Leaving at Easter
The standard contract (STPCD/Burgundy book) has only 3 set termination dates; 31st December, 30th April and 31st August. In any given year, the earliest Easter can occur is 22nd March and the latest Easter can occur is 25th April. The 30th April leaving date causes the most confusion because of how sometimes Easter can have finished and schools have returned before 30th April.
Teachers moving school
Because the dates for Easter move each year, if a teacher resigns at the end of the Spring term and takes up another teaching post in a different local authority, then they will be paid up to the day before their new school opens for the Summer term if it is earlier than 1st May.
Teachers leaving teaching
If a teacher, who is leaving teaching, resigns at the end of the Spring term, the school could expect the teacher to be available for work up to 30th April given that they would be paid for the whole month. If the replacement teacher starts after the Easter holiday, it may be possible for the exiting teacher to leave before the Easter holiday. You would need to discuss this with your school. The standard contract (STPCD/Burgundy book) doesn’t allow you to leave at Easter unless you come to an “agreement” with your Head.
“Employees on probation should not be required to give more than the statutory minimum notice, which in most cases will be one week.” (NEU Website)
Letter of Resignation
“Unless your contract says otherwise, your resignation letter should also be addressed to your head teacher/principal rather than to your line manager, if different.” (NEU Website)
If you want to leave your school then you will need a letter of resignation. My advice is don’t burn your bridges, no matter how annoyed you are as you may rely on them for a reference in the future. Here’s mine from a school I worked at for 15 years. When I started. it was a great school. Fifteen years later, it had become a cesspit of narcissism and toxicity:
However, David Fountain (who has lots of useful information about pensions at https://dfountain.co.uk/) has noted that some have found that their school’s HR don’t understand the teachers’ contract, or worse still deliberately interpret including the last day of work (e.g. 20th July in my resignation letter) as a ‘request’ to end your employment early, and therefore try to get away with NOT paying the full year’s wage (i.e. no pay in August!).
His advice is to just put that your last date of employment is 31 August. That way there is no possible misinterpretation. He suggests something like this:
As discussed last week please accept this as my notice of resignation in accordance with my contract where my last day of employment with you will be 31 August 2022.
(Then add any flowery complimentary phrases and thanks as you feel appropriate, or not)
Regarding including a few “home truths” in resignation letters, David says:
“Whilst this may be tempting it is worth remembering that your resignation letter will go into your personnel file/record and it may be many years down the line, when a reference is required, that it is seen again. The point then being that the Head with whom you had problems may have moved on and that letter may be one of the only things that whoever is writing your reference has to work with. If the letter contains said “home truths” they may consider it a reflection on the writer rather than the recipient and so I would always advocate the letter having a few thank yous and no negativity.”
What happens if you miss the Resignation Date deadline?
“You are not prohibited from leaving at half-term if your employer agrees that you may do so. However, the Burgundy Book provisions only allow teachers to resign their posts with effect from the end of term. If you wish to leave your employment at half-term make a request to do so in writing at the earliest possible opportunity and follow that up with a request to meet your head teacher to explain your request face-to-face.” (NEU Website)
Therefore, anything outside of the official terms of your contract is by negotiation with the headteacher and/or Governors. Here are three examples:
“The notice period will be in your terms and conditions. Some academies require a terms notice whilst others (a majority) a half terms notice. I have known people to only give a few weeks notice and if the Head is in agreement, they have gone with their blessing-it would be down the the Head.”
“I got offered a new job 3 weeks before the end of the summer term and my head teacher was really kind and allowed me to leave as they had staff who could cover until they could recruit. Definitely worth a chat with your head.”
“Normally you would have to give notice by 31st May. However, talk to your HT. They may waive that depending on the circumstances. I was offered a job during the summer holidays & was ‘released’ by my HT two weeks into Sept. The two HTs spoke and agreed the date between them.
Ultimately, if you ask to leave, even without the full notice period, some HTs will allow you to do so, because making you stay would likely make the working relationship difficult. They would rather make it work for both sides than keep a member of staff who doesn’t want to be there.”(regarding missing the 31st May deadline)
What would happen if you resigned without giving the required notice?
“Staff who leave their post without giving the required notice will be in breach of contract. Although contracts of employment cannot be enforced, in that employees cannot be prevented from leaving their jobs or working elsewhere, you could be sued for any costs incurred by the school/college as a result of your breach of contract and, of course, your conduct is likely to influence any future reference given by the Head/principal.” (NEU Website)
Here are some responses:
“Two things – you won’t get a reference and they can (through the courts) seeks any costs, in excess of what you would’ve been paid for the period, incurred in the cover of your duties and the search for a replacement.”
“I read a thread on a Heads page – basically, they were being advised to just let teachers go because the cost of challenging this through the courts was immense & impractical for a school!”
A longer response…
“The contract is a civil agreement. If you break it you are not committing a criminal act and the school would have to sue you in a civil court for damages. The police will not turn up and arrest you.
Those damages, I believe – and I am not a lawyer, are limited to additional costs. The more notice you give them of your intention to break the contract the less likely those costs will be significant. Given this schools generally do not even bother taking such action, but you need to be aware that they could.
The contract specifies the three normal termination dates and the notice periods BUT it also, as with all civil contracts, allows for them to be terminated by mutual consent. This is where you would have a conversation with your head and ask them to agree to release you. If they agree then you have no problem.
If you do not agree and you do break the contract then your reference is likely to be rubbish. They can put anything in the reference that is factually correct and so could include reference to your breaking of the contract. Worse, they could refuse to write you a reference and if you wanted to continue working in education this could cause you serious problems as very few employers will take you on without an affirmation from your previous employers that there were no safeguarding issues.”
Check out the NEU and NASUWT websites for more information about notice periods.