June 2000 - Newsletter No. 2

"The StatusQuo Is Not An Option"

This favourite expression – perhaps we should say MissionStatement – of the present day political and educationalelite had another airing last week. It was said to us by the leaderof the Price Waterhouse Coopers team appointed to draw up plansfor the delivery of educational services in Bradford followingthe OFSTED Report into the LEA.

The Politics of "Failure"

As we predicted, the political spin on the OFSTED Report wasthat the LEA was intolerably failing pupils and schools, and itcould not survive in its present form. Unless you are a cynic,you will be somewhat surprised to discover that this was not,however, the fault of the politicians or senior officers in chargeat the time. All of these would now play their part in helpingto draw up privatisation proposals. The senior officers wouldkeep their jobs. The judgment of the electorate has in the meantimeprevented the Councillors from doing so, and Labour has been replacedin office in Bradford by an alliance of Conservatives and LiberalDemocrats.

Price Waterhouse Coopers are now in Bradford for 8 weeks. Eachweek they get their steer from a Steering Group which consistingof 3 representatives of the DfEE, 2 senior Council Officers, 2headteachers and the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on theCouncil. They told us at our first meeting with them that therewas essentially no possibility of the LEA remaining as a publicservice. Either by outsourcing entirely to a company, or by someform of “partnership”, delivery of the services wouldessentially pass to the private sector. The merits of this arenot open to discussion. 130 years of public sector provision issimply down the drain without so much as a Green Paper or a WhitePaper or an Act of Parliament, as far as the Government is concerned.

Why This Plan Is Wrong

As a Union we are not opposed to attempts to evaluate the qualityof services, or to changes that improve them, but we are not hereengaged in any such objective process. We are being stampededinto some experimental model of privatisation.

This puts our 50 members employed withinthe LEA at risk.
It puts the conditions of service of all teachers in Bradfordschools at risk, because there is a very strong possibility thatresponsibility for these will be transferred to a company giventhe task of “rationalising” away things such as no-compulsoryredundancy policies.
It also puts educational support at risk if a company withoutpast expertise in the field takes over. Given the dearth of privatesector experience, this is very likely.

We have lobbied all of the political groups locally to tryto prevent these proposals being pushed through. None of the partiesnow emerge as enthusiastic about the plans, with the Liberal Democratsbeing most forthright about the need to maintain public sectorprovision while bringing in expertise where it is needed to improveservices. But the real issue is what any of them can and willdo to prevent or minimise what seems to us to be a potential ideologicallymotivated disaster.

What Can We Do?

We will continue to lobby and negotiate, but the likely outcomeof these activities will be getting whatever protection we canfor members within the framework of some form and degree of privatisation.

Campaigning for the protection of public services needs mobilisationon a bigger scale, both locally and nationally. We are tryingto achieve this, and we need your help in doing so. We will shortlybe writing to you with suggestions of things you can do.

Thresholds, Vanguards, and"George and Barabara"

160 Bradford headteachers attended a threshold assessment trainingmeeting on Friday 16th June, at the Bankfield Hotel. It was organisedby CEA for those schools where the threshold assessment will takeplace before the summer holidays.

Assessment Process

Assessors will be coming into these schools in the weeks beginningthe 3rd and 10th July to verify the head’s assessment ofwhich teachers have or have not crossed the threshold. The aimis to let teachers know whether they have crossed before the summerbreak. Obviously this is particularly important for closing schools.

The main points to come out of the training were:

But ……

It Stinks!

Despite this special treatment of Bradford, it is obvious thatthe threshold system remains rotten to the core. At times duringthe meeting, heads’ disquiet about the potential for divisivenessand grievance amongst staff was very evident. They were advisedby CEA to be “cautious” about comments on the form andto remember that it is being returned to the teacher – muchsafer just to underline the evidence that the teacher gives ratherthan make substantial comments that could lead to grievance situations.

It has become clear that the “dialogue” with theassessors is going to be the place where the heads’ “extra”evidence is going to be crucial. This is the so-called George& Barbara scenario. DfEE training gave an example of a very“thin” form (George’s) which the head was ableto bolster by his/her own knowledge so that threshold was achieved.

This is a recipe for favouritism and victimisation. It wasclear from the meeting that some heads wanted to have confirmationfrom CEA that they would be able to do the converse and rubbisha form that “appeared” strong in evidence.

Enough said.

Reorganisation Update

We have tried to ensure that the Authority is aware that noyear 6 teacher going into a Primary school this September shouldhave to contend with the lack of resources faced by some year5 teachers last year. More resources are expected to be availablethis year than last from Middle schools and will transfer withthe year 6 teachers. The Authority has also allocated £20per year 6 pupil to cover any shortfall. Where no teacher is transferringfrom a Middle school there is a grant of £500 in lieu ofmaterial.
For years 7 and 8, materials are transferring directly to designatedSecondary schools and they have also been allocated just over£23 per pupil in these new year groups for materials.
If you are moving and there are problems over the transfer ofyour personal resources with you, please contact us

EMTAG – Our PressureSucceeds?

A proposal to extend the ‘no redundancy’ commitmentto EMTAG staff in closing schools is going to the Council’sExecutive Committee on 27th June. We have met with the three politicalgroups and put the arguments for parity of treatment to them.

From our discussions we expect a positive outcome. Meanwhilea suggested placement list has been prepared and Head teachersare being consulted on their agreement to suggested placements.This consultation will be complete by mid-week, and unplaced EMTAGstaff should hear their placement by Friday 30th June or Saturday1st July. This placement will be subject to the agreement of themember of staff in the same way as for mainstream staff.

 

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