Cover Policy

Cover Policy
Date: 23/5/2016
Review Date:

Meadow High School
Cover Policy

1. Statutory Position
From September 2009 all schools are required to ensure that teachers are required to cover for absent colleagues ‘only rarely’. The contractual provision applies to all teachers, including teachers on the leadership spine, whether on permanent, fixed-term or temporary contracts and pro-rata to teachers on part-time contracts. It also applies to Head teachers. Meadow High School is, therefore, obliged to introduce a robust cover system, which does not rely upon teachers in the school providing cover.

This requirement does not apply to teachers employed wholly or mainly for the purposes of providing cover.

2. Principles
Meadow High School is committed to full implementation of the statutory position on cover without breaching teachers’ other entitlements under the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD)(as amended), for example to PPA time and to Management and Leadership time.
Meadow High School recognises that the intention of the new provision is to reduce teacher workload and will, therefore, respect the spirit as well as the letter of the statutory provisions. Meadow High School also undertakes not to request that teaching assistants work beyond their designated role.

Meadow High School is committed to providing the highest quality of teaching and learning for all its pupils. This is best achieved with each class taught by a qualified teacher, supported by teaching assistants or, on occasions where this is not possible, by a qualified Level Three (or above) Teaching Assistant , supported by teaching assistants.

Meadow High School recognises that providing cover is not an effective use of a teacher’s time and is committed to exhausting all other reasonable strategies before, exceptionally, asking a member of the teaching staff or the Cover Team to cover (The school reserves the right in emergency situations to require a teacher to cover a class).

3. Meadow High School’s Definition of ‘Rarely Cover’
‘Rarely cover’ is interpreted as meaning a teacher will only be asked to cover in emergency or exceptional circumstances – those which are unforeseeable.
‘Unforeseeable circumstances’ for the school include those which are unforeseeable on the basis of historic experiences, normal local experience and the evolving pattern of provision.
No fixed hours cover limit will be set as this is incompatible with the requirement to cover being linked to exceptional and emergency situations. Rarely cover is not about number of hours or frequency. It will only take place in rare circumstances that historically have never arisen in the school before, and could not reasonably have been predicted.

4. Reporting of Absence
Meadow High School therefore (and by direct instruction) expects staff to report their absence by 7.30am at the very latest by phone on 01895 443310 (in the event of the answer machine not working then by e-mail direct to the Senior Teaching Assistant), so that supply cover may be engaged. It is recognised, however, that in extremely rare circumstances, this may not always be possible.

It is essential that staff recognise their responsibility to inform the school accurately of any absence at the earliest opportunity.

Staff are expected to phone daily to clarify their continuing absence until such time that they are signed off.

Staff should inform school the day before they intend to return to work, that they will be returning to work on the following day.

If a member of staff would normally do a duty on the day of absence, school must be informed at the time they notify their absence.

If a member of staff would normally do a duty on a pre arranged day of absence e.g. due to an OEV or an appointment, they must arrange cover for that duty themselves and inform the staff responsible for cover.

5. Circumstances in which this Cover Policy will apply
Split Classes
A class whose teacher is absent may be split and shared between other classes. As this is a form of cover, splitting of classes will now occur only ‘rarely’ and when other strategies for providing cover have failed.

Educational Visits
As educational visits are planned activities, teachers will not be asked to provide cover if a colleague is absent on a visit, unless there is an emergency.

Meadow High School will not seek to reduce the number of educational visits as a result of the cover provisions as we recognise the educational value to pupils of such activities. All Educational visits must be within the agreed Schemes of Work set out within the Faculties of the school.

It is also expected that the teacher in charge of the trip or activity will provide a brief description of the event and where possible digital images of the activity. These should be carefully filed on Staff Files on the school network. This work will continually develop the School Website and evidence portfolio.

Gained Time
‘Gained time’ is the time during the academic year, particularly in the summer term, when teachers who take examination classes or groups are released from some of their timetabled teaching commitments as a result of pupils being on study, examination leave or Work Experience. Teachers may be directed to use gained time to cover for a colleague.

This will, however, now only happen rarely, in accordance with the September 2009 provisions.
Work undertaken during gained time will, however, not necessarily come within the definition of cover as “supervising and so far as practicable teaching any pupils whose teacher is not available to teach them”.

Meadow High School is permitted under STPCD provisions to direct teachers to undertake the following activities during gained time.


  • Developing/revising departmental/subject curriculum materials, schemes of work, lesson plans and policies in preparation for the new academic year. This may include identifying appropriate materials for use by supply staff and/or cover supervisors;
  • assisting colleagues in appropriate, planned team coaching activities;
  • taking groups of pupils to provide additional learning support;
  • supporting selected pupils with coursework;
  • undertaking planned activities with pupils transferring between year groups or from primary schools;
  • Where the school has a policy for all staff to release them for CPD during school sessions, gained time may be used for such activities.

It is only where such activities are being undertaken with pupils whose teacher is absent, that the activities will necessarily be considered to be ‘cover’, in which case the ‘rarely cover’ provision will apply. (Section 4, paragraph 56 STPCD 2008).

Meadow High School will not attempt to circumvent the ‘rarely cover’ provisions in relation to gained time by re-timetabling teachers so that they are no longer ‘covering’ for an absent teacher but instead are re-designated as the teacher for that class.

6. Cover Team/Supervisors (the individual)

What are a Cover Team/ Supervisor? ‘Cover Team’, is the job title given to non teaching staff who have been chosen by the headteacher of a school to look after a whole class of children. At Meadow High school Higher Level Teaching Assistants and Level 3 teaching assistants are deemed able to look after whole classes. Cover supervisors are usually deemed suitable if they have the necessary training and skills to fulfill the task of whole class supervision. The head teacher of the school has decided in their professional judgment that an individual is suitable to be a cover supervisor. Cover supervisors should only cover classes for ‘short term absences’ however this can change depending upon the specific circumstances and the need for continuity. Working as a cover supervisor can be extremely rewarding but also very demanding. There is a high level of responsibility and although there is always a teacher/mentor close at hand if needed, there is a large amount of autonomy.

A cover supervisor is likely to be used for short-term absences of a teacher. These might be known in advance (for example, where a teacher has a medical appointment or is undergoing professional development) or unexpected (for example, absence due to illness.

On a daily basis, cover supervision is more than likely to include:

  • Supervising work that has been set in accordance with the school policy
  • Managing the behaviour of pupils whilst they are undertaking this work to ensure a constructive environment;
  • Responding to any questions from pupils about process and procedures;
  • Dealing with any immediate problems or emergencies according to the school’s policies and procedures;
  • Collecting any completed work after the lesson and returning it to the appropriate teacher
  • Reporting back as appropriate using the school’s agreed referral procedures on the behaviour of pupils during the class, and any issues arising.

However, Meadow High school may wish to employ staff for cover supervision but where they are not needed for cover, they will be used to provide additional support to teachers in classrooms, or to carry out administrative tasks for example. Typically, a cover supervisor will work during school hours and in addition to supervising the class, they will also oversee the completion of set work and manage the behaviour of pupils. The working day is usually during school hours and often, term time only. Salaries are set by Meadow High School, with guidance from local education authorities There are currently no specific qualifications required for the role of cover supervisor however, cover supervision is a responsible role and so schools will take great care to ensure that all staff has the necessary skills and knowledge before being given charge of a class.

In general terms, those undertaking cover supervision should: a) be familiar with the full range of school policies, particularly those regarding health and safety, equal opportunity issues and special educational needs (SEN); b) have the necessary skills to manage safely classroom activities, the physical learning space and resources for which they are responsible; c) understand and be able to use a range of strategies to deal with classroom behaviour as a whole and also individual behavioral needs.

Although some individuals may already have some experience of working in schools, it is likely that some specific training will also be needed. It is expected that much of the training relevant to teaching assistants may also be suitable for cover supervisors. However, anyone who meets the Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTA) standards will, as a matter of course, automatically have the necessary training and skills for cover supervision if that is to be part of their role.
The rate of pay will be commensurate with the level of the post and the salary scales attached to those scales

7. Strategies for Providing Cover
The strategies for providing cover in Meadow High School are rooted firmly in the principle that cover for absent teachers is most suitably provided by qualified supply teachers or Cover Supervisors, supported by teaching assistants.

Due to the complexity of needs and the need for consistency the school will apply the following strategy in the order set out below, when an absence needs to be covered


  1. Deploy one of our existing Cover Team. This strategy is essential for medium and long term absence
  2. Where a suitable cover teacher is genuinely unavailable, a Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA), (or a member of our school Cover Team: a Cover Supervisor) will be used but only for the shortest possible time until the qualified teacher is available.
  3. Use external supply agencies
  4. Use fixed term contracts (for longer term absence rates)

Meadow High School recognises that there are restrictions on the circumstances in which a cover team member can be deployed to do what is known as “specified work”. Specified work is defined in the Education (Specified Work and Registration) (England) Regulations 2003 as:

(a) Planning and preparing lessons and courses for pupils;

(b) Delivering lessons to pupils. This includes delivery via distance learning or computer aided techniques;

(c) Assessing the development, progress and attainment of pupils; and

(d) Reporting on the development, progress and attainment of pupils.

The Regulations set out that, in addition to these duties being carried out by an HLTA-trained teaching assistant who the Head Teacher is satisfied has the skills, expertise and experience, an HLTA-trained teaching assistant must only undertake `specified’ work:

  • To support and assist a qualified teacher;
  • Under the supervision of a qualified teacher.

A cover team member who has undertaken HLTA training can be directed to undertake specified work within the restrictions set out above. If not, they can only undertake cover supervision.
Where the above options are not available, cover team members – who are not HLTA trained – may be deployed to cover for the shortest possible time until a cover or supply teacher is available. At the very maximum this will be for the first 3 days of an absence in Meadow High School. Meadow High School accepts that cover supervision means that when no active teaching takes place and pupils carry out, under supervision, work which has been prepared in advance.

Only in exceptional emergency situations, where none of the above options are available will teachers be directed to cover. Any requirement to cover will be shared equitably among all staff, including the Head Teacher, and a Log of cover will be kept by the school and be available for inspection.

8. Setting of Work
Meadow High School will not place excessive burdens of planning, preparation and assessment on teachers who are absent. Where absence is planned, it is expected that the teacher will provide details of the work to be undertaken by pupils during cover lessons.

At Meadow High School the understanding is that if you have made arrangements for a medical appointment, or any other personal time off then because you are aware this will cause cover for another member of staff you must leave cover for all of the lessons that are affected. Similarly if you have agreed to take part in professional development and this is known in advance then you must provide cover for those lessons.

Any pre-booked absence from the school timetable must have the relevant cover provided by the teacher before the actual event. The same principles would apply to pre-booked school visits. If you have arranged a school trip that causes cover for groups that are not part of the trip, groups that you would normally teach that day, then this cover must be available before the trip goes ahead.
The member of staff causing the cover must also fill out a Cover Request Form at least 24 hours before the actual cover takes place.

Cover should be given to the SENIOR TEACHING ASSISTANT the day before the absence takes place.

If there was no cover then it would be unfair to let the trip go ahead as other members of staff would then not only be actually doing the cover but preparing it as well.

In the case of unplanned absence teachers are expected to provide details of work to be undertaken by pupils. Each member of staff should have a folder or a box that contains the cover work for one whole week.

This means work that could be left for each class that staff teaches, for each lesson that they teach them. In practical terms this would probably be work that might be related to the relevant schemes of work but not work that has to be specifically drawn from a scheme of work so that it could upset it and its progress.

If an absence lasts longer than a week then it is no longer that member of staff’s responsibility to provide this cover work. This then becomes the responsibility of the Faculty Leader. After the first week of absence the Faculty Leader will be responsible for the provision of more detailed and specific work related to the set schemes of work and this will continue until either the absent member of staff returns to school or a replacement teacher is found.

Once a member of staff returns to work, it is expected that they then replenish their cover folder/box. This will include new cover work that has not been used by those classes before. It is hoped that in this way the folder/boxes are always usable and are always up to date. This way they can always be used in an effective way with the least amount of confusion.

If cover work is being sent into school via e-mail then there also needs to be a phone call that explains where it has been sent and how it should be used. (This should really be a last resort as the work should already be in a cover box or be pre-prepared). This work should be sent to the Cover Team

The quality of this cover work is expected to be high and be sufficient for the sessions that are being covered. (Word searches or colouring in is not acceptable. Nor should students be placed on a website activity for the duration of the lesson.)

It is not acceptable to give brief notes over the phone when staff phone in on the day.
Our cover team can actually refuse to take the cover lesson if there is no adequate cover set. In doing so they must however still apply a duty of care and ensure that the class is safely managed until an alternative teacher is provided

The cover team will always try and find ways to facilitate the cover but it is not fair to expect them to make bad resources work well. In the past we have also tried to accommodate the fact that all cover will be very different due to the fact that all subjects are very different. However there are common elements that would make the cover more complete.

The cover that is supplied should have…….

(1) A comprehensive lesson plan, listing basic key facts, sequence of events and the resources to be used. (There are several lesson plans included.) Faculties may have devised their own specific documents.
The minimum requirement would be that the “M.H.S cover work lesson plan” is completed for every lesson that is pre-arranged cover (this sits on the desktop of the staff room computer).
This is an essential part of pre –arranged cover.

(2) The resources for the lesson ;( if it is a worksheet based activity they should all be printed off ready for the lesson). Website work should be given as early as possible so that the person involved can prepare. The same would apply to visual resources like DVDs.
The resources must be prepared and be with the lesson plan.

(3) Special layouts; students placed in particular areas or seats and any other important circumstances involving students and relevant student requirements should also be communicated to the cover teacher through the lesson plan or informally as soon as the cover teacher is known. (More often than not it will be one of the Cover Team). Specialist equipment or resources should also be made available for familiarity as soon as possible so that they can be used as efficiently as possible.
All of this should then be placed in a useful and relevant place so that it can be retrieved by the person doing the cover or the person in charge of the cover (The Deputy Headteacher Head of Education). The cover could be left where it is being used or with the DHT. The DHT should be informed of it’s location.

Meadow High School expects supply/cover teachers to engage in active teaching wherever possible during cover lessons.

In the case of short-term cover, this will include delivering provided lesson plans. In the case of medium long-term cover, supply/cover teachers will be expected to undertake ‘specified work’, including planning, preparation, delivery, assessment, recording and reporting.

9. Leave of Absence Arrangements
Meadow High School recognises that, given that teachers cannot take annual leave in the way that employees in other occupations can, there are circumstances in which teachers will need to take paid time off during the school day. Meadow High School recognise also that the leave of absence policy of the London Borough of Hillingdon forms part of teachers’ contracts. Reasonable requests for paid time off will continue to be agreed under the 2010 cover provisions.

10. Absence Management
Staff absence will follow the agreed policy adopted by the school.

11. Policy Monitoring and Evaluation
A member of the senior leadership team will monitor the effectiveness of this policy on an annual basis to ensure that the system is working to the benefit of both pupils and staff. Staff will be invited to formally contribute views on an annual basis but are free to raise concerns as they arise.

12. Policy Review
The head teacher and Governing Body will carry out a review of this policy on an annual basis. Staff not following the Policy as stated may be subject to disciplinary action.