Navigating Notice Periods: A UK Teacher's Guide

A quick guide on how to tackle UK teacher notice periods - all your questions answered...

Hello there! If you're thinking of branching out from the teaching world, or perhaps just taking a hiatus, one of the first things to consider is your notice period. It might sound like a mundane detail, but trust me, it's crucial. Let's break it down.

England and Wales: For most teachers in England and Wales, the "Burgundy Book" sets the tone. Here's what you need to know:

  • Regular Teachers: It's typically a two months' notice. However, come summertime, it stretches to three.

  • Headteachers: A bit longer here – three months, but during the summer it extends to four.

Key Dates to Remember for Teachers:

  • Resign by 31st October to leave on 31st December.

  • Resign by 28th February if you need to leave by 30th April

  • Resign by 31st May in order to leave on 31st August.

In terms of pay, NASUWT says this: “if you provide the appropriate notice, you will be paid up to and including the last day of term, even though school holiday periods start earlier than these dates (e.g. paid until 31 August despite summer holidays usually beginning in July).”

Academies, Free Schools, and Independent Schools: 

  • These schools aren’t tied down by the Burgundy Book, so you will need to check your contract for notice periods. Most Academies use Burgundy book as a reference point, but you shouldn’t assume - be sure to check.

Northern Ireland:

  • Permanent Teachers: It's three calendar months. But if you're eyeing the end of August or September, it's four. There's some wiggle room if both parties agree.


  • Main Grade & Others: Four working weeks' notice.

  • SLT: It's eight weeks, including those four working weeks.

A Little Tip for Negotiating with New Employers:

Some employers, especially those familiar with the teaching world like the Civil Service, are clued up on our long notice periods. So, don't be shy! Start a conversation. More often than not, they're open to working something out that suits both parties. Remember - the notice periods outside of education can also be long, particularly for leadership roles - so your new employer may be more than happy to push back the start date for you. 

Useful Resources

Burgundy Book

NEU Guidance
NASUWT Guidance

FAQ - Your Questions Answered!

What happens if I just leave without working the notice period?

If you leave without working your notice period, it will be considered a breach of contract. Although your employer can’t actually force you to stay or stop you from working elsewhere, there is a chance (albeit a slim one!) that you could be sued for any costs incurred by the school as a result of your leaving early. What is more likely, is that it could have a detrimental impact on your reference going forward. If you need to leave before the end of your notice period, it would be best to try to negotiate early release instead or speak to your union for specific advice.

Can I leave at half term?

Technically, no. When you resign from your post, the notice period dictates that you leave at the end of a term (unless your own contract states otherwise). Again, there is likely to be room for negotiation here though! Try speaking to your headteacher at the earliest possible opportunity to see if they could release you from contract at the half term point.

Are the rules different if you’re returning from maternity leave?

Whilst on maternity leave, you will still have to give the same notice periods to leave. On top of this, according to the Burgundy Book, if you don’t return from maternity leave for at least 13 weeks then the school is entitled to reclaim part of your maternity pay. If you are unsure about returning to the classroom whilst on maternity leave, it is best to speak with your school - as they do have the discretion to waive either of these terms. It might also be a good idea to ask your union for advice in these circumstances.

Do you have to give as much notice if you are leaving the education system altogether?

Yes. It doesn’t matter if you are leaving for another teaching post or for a job outside of the education system - the notice periods are the same regardless of your future plans.

How successful is negotiation with your headteacher likely to be?

This is a commonly asked question but so tricky to answer! I have heard many stories of successful negotiations and often headteachers will be understanding and flexible about the notice period where they can be. However, this will be completely dependent on a number of factors - including the working relationship you have with your head, individual team dynamics and staffing, their ability to source a replacement and the amount of notice you are able to give.

Do I have to tell my headteacher that I’m applying for other jobs before I’ve handed my notice in?

No! It is not a legal requirement to let your headteacher know that you are applying for other jobs, although it is often considered good practice. You can let them know you are looking without officially resigning until you are ready to do so. Clearly your relationship with your line manager is key here - you will be hopefully asking for time off for interviews and a reference, so seeking their support (and offering to support them in recruiting to replace you) can make the journey smoother.

What other options do I have if I want to give myself more flexibility around leaving?

If you are struggling to line up the notice period timings and finding new employment you have a couple of options:

  1. Supply teaching - Many supply teachers work on a day-to-day or weekly basis making it much easier to accept new employment whenever you want. Long-term supply positions often have shorter notice periods too, although you’ll want to check your contract before committing!

  1. Job for now - Accepting that in between leaving teaching and finding your DREAM JOB, you could find a ‘lifeboat’ can be incredibly freeing. This could be something you accept to give you financial stability whilst searching for your next adventure, breathing and healing space away from the long hours of teaching and likely a shorter notice period when you do move on again.

  1. Negotiate - Yes, this again! Talk to your headteacher and your new prospective employer to find out if there can be movement on either side around your end/start date.

I’m ready to hand in my notice, what should I put in my resignation letter?

When it's time to write your resignation letter, you might feel a whirlwind of emotions. But here's a golden piece of advice: keep it simple, sincere, and devoid of emotions. You never know when paths might cross again, so burning bridges isn’t the best idea. Stick to the essentials: state your intention to resign, mention the last working day as per your notice period, and express gratitude for the opportunities and experiences.

For instance:

"Dear [Headteacher/Manager's Name],

I am writing to formally resign from my position at [School's Name], with my last working day being [Date]. I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences I've had here and look forward to new challenges.

Thank you for your guidance and support.

Kind regards, [Your Name]"

Avoid delving into reasons, emotions, or critiques. Remember, politeness goes a long way, and a concise, respectful letter can leave a lasting positive impression.

If you’re thinking about handing in your notice, planning ahead is going to be key. Take a term to explore your skills, values and career ideas - this way you can hit the ground running when you decide it’s time to make your exit official. Academy members take on average two terms to put together an exit plan and leave …this puts them in a great position to find their next role outside of teaching. 

Transitioning from teaching is a journey, and it's the little details like notice periods that can smooth the way. Take it step by step, always be informed, and remember, every new chapter is an adventure waiting to be embraced!

If you’re wanting to leave in the next term or two, pop your name on the Academy waitlist and we’ll guide you every step of the way.