There is a lot of work involved in being a teacher. As students, we normally only see a fraction of this – the time they spend directly teaching us in lessons. There’s plenty of other tasks to consider, and the workload can quickly pile up. Planning lesson structures, making PowerPoint slides, marking tests, finding homework resources…none of this happens in the classroom, but it’s all completely necessary to make sure lessons can actually run.
There’s lots of debate regarding the workload and pay of teachers, but there are some things set in place already to try and help with this. One of these methods is making sure all teachers have allocated PPA time. But this is an acronym most students have never heard of. So, what exactly is PPA?
PPA time stands for Planning, Preparation and Assessment time. As the name suggests, this is time set aside for teachers to plan and prepare for lessons, as well as mark assessments and classwork from students. This is timetabled as part of their normal teaching day, so should reduce the workload teachers have after school and at weekends. PPA time is actually a legal requirement for teachers, and it must make up at least 10% of their working hours, in sessions of at least 30 minutes at a time.
Keep reading for plenty more information about PPA time, including exactly how much teachers get, and which kinds of teacher are eligible.
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What is PPA time for teachers?
As mentioned, PPA is an acronym for Planning, Preparation and Assessment. These aren’t things that immediately come to mind when people think about being a teacher, but they are all vitally important to the job, as discussed in this article about PPA time from The School Run.
A lesson may last for one hour, but there is a lot more work that goes into it. The teacher has to plan the content of the lesson and create or find resources for it. Additionally, if they have set homework or tests, they will need to take these away from the lesson to mark.
All of this adds up, and teachers end up working far more than it can seem from the perspective of a student. PPA time is therefore meant to ease this workload.
Rather than do all of this additional work in evenings or weekends – which isn’t paid time – teachers have scheduled periods to get started on this planning, preparation and assessment work during the school day.
As students, you are likely to see this as scheduled ‘free periods’ on a teachers’ timetable, or times when you see them working in their office rather than teaching.
What do teachers do during PPA time?
Generally speaking, PPA time is fairly self-explanatory – it can be used for Planning, Preparation and Assessment!
Planning is generally making whole lesson plans. This includes what is going to be covered in each lesson, such as explanations from the teachers, activities for students to complete, and homework to be set. It also involves planning lessons on a larger scale – how many lessons or weeks each topic will take, and so on.
Preparation is similar to planning. It may include finding resources and worksheets, or emailing students with relevant information or instructions, for example.
Assessment generally involves work the students have completed. This could be homework handed in to mark, or tests completed in class.
There’s also work to do in terms of deciding when class tests need to be taken to keep on track with the curriculum. I’m sure all students have heard teachers talking about the huge pile of marking they need to get through!
That being said, there are plenty of other things teachers could use this time for, such as answering emails or writing references. While PPA stands for certain things, it is basically time allocated for the teacher to complete any work they have to do that isn’t directly teaching students.
The important thing is that teachers can’t be made to spend this time doing other work as directed by the school. This is usually covering an absent teacher but could also be things like extra lunch time supervision duties.
Unless it’s an emergency, PPA time is for the teacher to independently spend on their own workload, not doing extra work. You can read more about this in this article about PPA time from Twinkl.
How much PPA time do teachers get?
Legally, the minimum requirement for timetabled PPA time for teachers is 10% of their working hours. You can read more about this in this official set of guidelines from the government.
For example, if a teacher is contracted to work for 30 hours a week, at least 3 hours of this must be planned PPA time. However, this is just a minimum requirement. 3 hours is unlikely to be enough to finish all the planning and marking a teacher needs to do for the week!
Some of this extra work inevitably gets done after school or at weekends, so PPA time only goes so far to reduce the teachers’ workload. In some places, more than 10% will be allocated as PPA time, but this is largely dependent on the school.
Another time requirement is that PPA sessions have to be at least 30 minutes long at a time. Teachers are not going get much of their PPA work done if they have to do it in 10-minute bursts throughout the week!
Normally, the sessions will be as long as a lesson is in school, because this is then easier to timetable in. If lessons in school are normally an hour long, it makes sense for teachers to have a ‘free’ lesson. This amounts to one hour of PPA time, rather than 30 minutes of PPA and 30 minutes of teaching.
Do part-time teachers get PPA time?
The short answer to this is yes, part-time teachers do get PPA time! Even if they are not working for a full 5 days a week, they still have lessons to plan, tests to mark, and so on.
PPA for part-time teachers works in essentially the same way as it does for full-time ones. A minimum of 10% of timetabled work hours are dedicated to planning, preparation and assessment.
Of course, the only difference is that part-time teachers work fewer hours, so 10% works out as less PPA time. If a teacher only works for 10 hours a week, they will get at least 1 hour of PPA time.
If there is a very small amount of PPA time allocated to teachers who only work, say, 1 day a week, their PPA time might be a longer session every fortnight, rather than really short sessions every week. The rule of PPA time being in blocks of at least 30 minutes still applies.
Do supply teachers get PPA time?
Nearly all teachers get PPA time – but supply teachers are an exception, as they do not have to be allocated this preparation time.
Ultimately, this is because they do not have to plan lessons plans for lessons they cover or take away students’ work to mark. This responsibility lies with whichever teacher they are covering for.
However, if the supply teacher is on a long-term assignment, they may also be expected to plan, deliver and mark lessons and assignments. In these cases, they may be given more comparable conditions, such as higher pay and even PPA time.
You can read more about this on this page from the teachers’ union, NEU, which has more on supply teachers’ pay and working conditions.
Do teachers in leadership roles get PPA time?
Another thing you may now be wondering is whether teachers with leadership positions in school, such as headteachers, get PPA time allocated – and the answer is yes, they do!
This doesn’t just involve headteachers, but also deputy heads, as well as teachers with specific responsibilities, such as a SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator). They might all have slightly different roles to standard subject teachers, but they all still need time to plan and prepare for lessons. The same 10% minimum rule applies.
In fact, teachers with these additional responsibilities get more time away from direct teaching to do preparation work related to their leadership roles. This is a similar concept to PPA, but it is an additional allowance, rather than counting as PPA time.
If this subject interests you, check out this page from the teachers’ union NASUWT, which has a full guide to how different teachers’ working time is split up in England.