June 2001 - Newsletter

Supernumerary Teachers offered severance

The Director of Finance has agreed that there are sufficient funds to offer voluntary severance / early retirement to all supernumerary staff in schools who do not have a permanent placement for next September. They should receive a written offer about the time you read this newsletter.

This will end a time of uncertainty for a number of NUT members who have faced considerable change over the last 3 years. While some of us may be green with envy, we wish them all the best for the future.

Other supernumerary teachers will not wish to accept severance and will be found placements until they gain a permanent post. For them the uncertainty continues and they deserve our support at this time.

Permanent staff in some schools may be wondering how they will be affected once the supernumerary staff leave. If you feel your school will be particularly adversely affected please let us know.

New Buildings

Please continue to contact the Office if there are any problems concerning building at your school. We have dealt with a large number of such problems over the past few months and it is usually possible for a local officer to get to the school and see the problem for themselves at fairly short notice. Get in touch if you think there may be something going on which is unsafe and /or threatens your working conditions.
Bovis, who are managing most of the building schemes for the Authority, have asked us to report back on teachersí opinions (good and bad) of the new buildings. Please ring in with any comments, or address them to Miriam Murch.

Health Issues - Stress and......

Bradford NUT officers have dealt with more cases of stress this year than in any previous year, which is a worrying fact for anyone teaching in the Authority. The symptoms of stress, such as losing sleep, inability to concentrate, changes in behaviour patterns, are varied. if you suspect you are suffering from stress, our advice, based on experience, is donít try to soldier on. In the vast majority of cases the results of stress are completely curable when treated early, but when ignored they can lead to permanent damage. If you think you are suffering from stress do two things quickly:
  1. See your doctor
  2. Contact the Union office
Do not assume that stress is your fault. It is most probably caused by your working conditions. Employers have a duty of care to their employees under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, and it is to make them fulfil this duty that we are trying to get schools to carry out Stress Risk Assessments. It would be difficult to find a school which would admit to not having a fire risk assessment - which of course is a good thing - but we are not aware as yet of any school which has done a risk assessment for stress. Do you think you have more chance of being injured in a fire whilst at work or being made ill through stress? No prizes for the right answer.
Head teachers sometimes say that conducting a risk assessment on stress is more difficult because of the problem of pinning down exactly what causes stress to different individuals. Bradford NUTís Stress Survey provides at least part of the answer to this as it identifies the specific causes of stress as perceived by teachers in different schools. If you would like us to conduct a survey in your school, please contact the office. The first step will be for a local officer to visit your school to explain the survey, and then talk to your Head about doing a Risk Assessment aimed at reducing or obviating the stressors which the staff have identified.

....Voice problems

This appears to be an increasing hazard for teachers, perhaps as a knock-on effect of numeracy and literacy hours, or simply as a result of an ever more demanding job. If you are suffering then see your doctor - damage can be long term. You should also contact the Union office as there are practical steps which a school can take to try to alleviate the problem.

Workload

On Monday of last week Doug McAvoy updated NUT Divisional Secretaries at a meeting in London about two different discussions that are taking place. One is about ways of dealing with the teacher recruitment/retention crisis and the other is about the excessive workload of teachers. It is almost too obvious to say that the two are closely related. One set of discussions is within a Steering Group set up to make recommendations about changes in conditions of service to the School Teacher Review Body as well as recommendations to schools about reducing teacher workload. David Blunkett, when he set up the Steering group, was very hostile to the idea of the 35 hour week to which all the Unions subscribe - Estelle Morris is likely to be no more sympathetic.

Price Waterhouse Coopers - The Teachersí Friend?

PWC have been hired to gather background data and are workload shadowing and interviewing teachers in 30 schools nationwide. These are supposed to be a representative cross-section, though the Unions had to fight to have an inner city school included. A NUT official is accompanying PWC in the interviews. The nearest school to Bradford is a Junior school in Wakefield. This is a medium to long term exercise.

Recruitment Crisis? Cover to Contract? What is happening?

The NASUWT and then the NUT called off the cover to contract action (just before Bradford schools were due to be balloted!) in return for the promise of the working party and of talks with the Local Authority employers about ways of dealing with the excessive cover work asked of teachers.

Well the crisis has not gone away just because we are talking to the Government and the employers. At the London briefing, one Divisional secretary after another recounted schools with large numbers of unfilled vacancies. The worst was in Westminster where 49 staff out of 120 were leaving this Summer. Speaker after speaker put this down to the intolerable workload and lack of personal control of the work that both puts recruits off and makes teachers leave. The most staggering statistic revealed at the meeting was that in the age range 25-29 the rate of teachers leaving the profession was 35%. This haemorrhage is unsustainable and the solutions so far suggested by the Government and the employers are woefully inadequate.

Banking Your Cover? Your views welcome!

The latest idea from the talks is that teachers can 'bank' any cover they do after the 3rd day of absence and reclaim that time within a 4 week period. In a primary school, it is suggested that if you take 6 extra pupils in your class when a class of 30 is split, then you could have 1/5 of a day to 'bank' for time off later. Compensatory non-contact time would be provided either by the school hiring a supply teacher on another day or by asking colleagues who have been released from teaching to cover for you. If no cover can be found the pupil day may have to be reduced. Divisional Secretaries expressed grave concern about the operation and potential abuse of such an accounting operation. Membersí views would be welcome either to us or direct to Doug McAvoy.

Schools which cannot find supply cover should contact the Union Office for advice about the protection the union can offer.

Stakeholder Pensions

Teachers whose salaries are below £30,000 can benefit from the new Stakeholder pension arrangements introduced by the government. These do not replace the Teachersí Pension Scheme or AVCs, but are additional to them. Members of the Teachersí Pension Scheme will be able to contribute up to £3,600 per annum, on top of the maximum 9% currently allowed for AVCs, or past added years. The Stakeholder pension also allows the individual to take up to 25% of the accumulated fund as a tax free lump sum.
The teachersí organizations have facilitated a national Stakeholder scheme for all teachers through the TUC Stakeholder Pension Scheme. Publicity material will be sent to schools at the beginning of next term.

Threshold

The new form for the next round of applications is now available from your head teacher or the DfEE Website www.dfee.gov.uk/teachingreforms

The deadline for applications is October 29th 2001 and teachers who are at present on point 9 because of experience or qualifications can apply (or re-apply).

After a great deal of delay the review process for applications made in 2000 is underway. A team from Cambridge Education Associates is starting work on the vanguard applications this week.

 

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