March 2002 - Newsletter

Estelle Morris tells heads to make "tough choices" on post threshold pay

Estelle Morris wrote on the 5th March to all headteachers about her view of how teachers will progress on the Upper pay scale when they become eligible for a rise this September. Cynically she ignored or twisted:

* the Pay Review Body recommendation that "sufficient resources be made available by the DfES to ensure that teachers who meet the performance criteria can in fact progress."
* the teacher recruitment literature which widely publicises the £32,250 top point of the Upper range
* the criteria for progress in the Teachers Pay and Conditions Document of "achievements and contribution to the school have been substantial and sustained"

And instead substitutes her truly Gradgrindian view of the world:(her quotes)

"Performance points should be an incentive for continuous improvement, used to reward the most effective teachers ... beyond the minimum requirements of substantial and sustained achievements." (our emphasis)

She says this means that headteachers will have to make:
"tough choices about who is rewarded"
"based on school priorities and available budget"
"effective management decisions"

And she hopes that headteachers:
"will agreee with me that the approach I have identified in this letter offers a practical and indeed, the only way forward."

This is an insulting and provocative letter and we hope that headteachersrespond to Estelle Morris disagreeing forcefully. The NUT expects that every teacher on the Upper Spine who, after a review of performance, meets the criteria for progress in the Teachers Pay Document (see above) should be awarded the second point by the Governors.

The NUT will not accept that it is fair that a school with large reserves has the "available" budget and the one next door with a deficit treats its teachers differently. "Tough choices" about rewards are all about favouritism, rejection and discrimination. How this is intended to raise standards is a mystery to everyone except Estelle Morris.

How to respond in your school

Most heads will find this letter offensive - please encourage them to write to Estelle Morris protesting about this. Make sure that the performance review takes place next term.

Let your Governors know, preferably as a staff, that if your headteacher confirms that you have met the criteria in the Pay Document, it is only fair that you be paid the second point. Ask them to protest to Estelle Morris - the Chair of Governors was sent a copy of the letter as well.

Threshold Applications:

Local NUT officers are here to help with any Threshold application or appeal difficulties.

This year

A few members have contacted us to say that their Head has indicated that the criteria for crossing the Threshold this year have been applied more stringently than previously. Please let us know if you have any evidence that this is the case.

Next year

Because of the shortening of the pay scale due in September, teachers presently on point 8 or above will be elegible to apply to cross the threshold next Autumn.

COUNCIL TO BRING IN SIX-TERM YEAR?

The Council is giving serious consideration to a plan to reorganize the pattern of school terms and holidays.

The NUT is arguing for the retention of a long summer holiday in order to counteract stress and to address the problems of recruitment and retention.

Our argument is supported by research carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA) which has found that a long summer break is a major factor in persuading graduates to become teachers. Various models are being looked at, but that which is receiving most attention, and the one supported by the LGA, is the “Six term Year.” This would entail:
• a summer holiday of at least five weeks
• a slightly earlier summer holiday, starting in mid-July and ending in mid/late August
• a two-week holiday in October
• a two- week holiday at Christmas
• a one week break in February
• a fixed two-week holiday in Spring to replace the variable Easter holiday.
• a one week break in May/June

Some occasional days, giving a certain amount of discretion to schools, may be retained. The total amount of holidays would obviously remain the same as at present.

These plans are being discussed on various committees which local NUT officers attend. If you would like to let us know your own individual view, or the views of the members at your school, please contact the office.

ASSAULTS ON SCHOOL STAFF

The Health & Safety Advisers at our office get copies of all the Violence to Staff Report Forms which record assaults on staff in schools. These are processed by Education Bradford as part of the system of dealing with the serious issue of violence at work.

Over recent months we have become alarmed by the sheer numbers of teachers who are on the receiving end of violence, usually perpetrated by pupils, but occasionally by the relatives of pupils.

The level of seriousness of the assaults also seems to be escalating with more teachers reporting physical injury following attempts to deal with pupils who have “lost control”. The physical injury, along with the emotional trauma caused, can leave a teacher struggling to cope with what is already a very stressful job.

Health & Safety Legislation already clearly defines the need for employers to carry out Risk Assessments on anything in a school which constitutes a hazard. If your school is becoming troubled by increasing violence then your headteacher should be considering doing a Risk Assessment on this issue. Recently we have been involved with a number of schools where progress is being made to effectively reduce the problem by the Risk Assessment process. If you feel your school could benefit from this approach we would be happy to come in and see you.

If you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of an assault at work, at whatever level, (including verbal assault), it is very important that you fill in a Violence to Staff Form. These should be freely available in the staff room. There is no other mechanism for recording violence to staff in schools.

Please contact the office for more information.

TEMPOARY AND FIXED TERM CONTRACTS -YOUR RIGHTS

Are you on a temporary or fixed term contract? This is a serious question, because the Unions have just been given a list of hundreds of teachers in Bradford on these types of contracts.

There should be a legitimate reason for awarding such contracts – for instance covering for a maternity leave/long term sickness absence/ secondment/pending the appointment of a permanent member of staff or very occasionally when pupil numbers will fall the following year.

Frequently, however, schools put down the woolly reason of “budget” which when challenged proves not to be the case. The reason for awarding a temporary/fixed term contract needs to be transparent and ultimately can be challenged legally if the school attempts to dismiss the teacher.

Dismiss? Yes, because legally the ending of a temporary/fixed term contract is a dismissal and once a teacher has worked for one year by the end date of their contract, s/he has the right to claim “unfair dismissal”. It is then for the employer to show that the dismissal was for a “fair” reason. The only fair reasons are defined in the Employment Acts and an employer must come within these definitions to make it a fair dismissal.

What are your rights?

Once you have held your job for a year, your school must give you a written reason of why you have been dismissed if you ask for it. This is very important because it concentrates the mind of the headteacher as to whether there is, in fact, a fair reason for the ending of your contract. If you know that your contract is not going to be renewed , you should not just accept the situation, but ask for the written reason.

The Union has a right to be consulted about the ending of temporary/fixed term contracts and we will pursue schools for answers about the ending of temporary contracts where budget or infant class size reduction are given as the reasons.

If you have held temporary contracts for 2 years, then you gain employment rights related to redundancy situations such as redundancy pay, and the obligation of the employer to select fairly for redundancy – just having a temporary contract is not in itself a fair reason for selection for redundancy.

If you are on a temporary/fixed term contract you are entitled to clarity about the reason for it being this type of contract. Is there a genuine reason or is the headteacher circumventing the intention of employment legislation. How, for instance, can “budget” be a reason when there is a sizeable surplus in school reserves? Why should the infant class size money be attached to an individual teacher year after year? The same does not happen to many other pots of money that come into schools.

Finally, if it is suggested that your contract is going to be renewed why not raise the issue of permanency? Once again, the headteacher will have to justify why it cannot be made permanent and the issue could go to the Governing Body with Union support.

 

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