Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Five things we learned today about the School Teachers' Review Body Report

"To support an effective career pathway for school leaders, the level of pay on offer must be sufficient that people stepping up to such leadership positions feel that they are being fairly remunerated for the additional responsibilities and pressures they are taking on", (para 4.17, STRB Report, July 2018)

1. The Government have refused to accept the STRB recommendations in full

In this statement, Damian Hinds makes clear that he has “decided to accept in full the STRB’s recommendation for a 3.5% uplift to the minima and maxima of the main pay range, building on last year’s 2% uplift to the main pay range”.

But 60% of teachers are paid on higher scales. Damian Hinds is recommending they receive less than the 3.5% uplift recommended by the STRB – and less than the current rates of inflation (CPIH 2.3%, RPI 3.4%). Instead, Damian Hinds announced that “the minima and maxima of the upper pay range will be uplifted by 2% and on the leadership pay range by 1.5%”.

Warning: As teachers in East Sussex have recently had to strike to expose, last year’s 2% uplift was only statutorily applicable to the minimum and maximum points of the range. Some academies are not bound by the STPCD in any case. Even some maintained schools didn’t pay 2% to teachers on the intermediate points M2-M5. Could this happen again with the 3.5% uplift?

2. The Pay Award will NOT be fully-funded by the DfE – and certainly not by the Treasury

Damian Hinds’ statement went on to say: “We will be supporting schools in England to implement the award with an investment of £508 million through a new teachers’ pay grant of £187 million in 2018-19 and £321 million in 2019-20 from the existing Department for Education budget. This will cover, in full, the difference between this award and the cost of the 1% award that schools would have anticipated under the previous public sector pay cap”.

“In reaching a final position for 2018/19 public sector pay awards, we have balanced a need to recognise the value and dedication of our hard-working public servants whilst ensuring that our public services remain affordable in the long term, to contribute to our objective of reducing public sector debt ... It is vital that we consider all pay awards in light of wider pressures on public spending. Public sector pay needs to be fair both for public sector workers and the taxpayer. Around a quarter of all public spending is spent on pay and we need to ensure that our public services remain affordable for the future”.

Warning: Even if the pay grant announced is really sufficient to pay for the DfE recommendations, already overstretched school budgets will have to fund the costs of the 1% portion of the award.  But there might be more to pay. The Treasury has made clear it is not paying the DfE bill for the additional £508m but this will have to be found from elsewhere within DfE resources. That could mean schools then having to pay for vital services that are cut from other parts of the education budget which schools rely upon.

3. The STRB wanted 3.5% across the board for a good reason – for teacher retention

The Government haven’t just ignored the STRB’s recommendation of 3.5% across the board increases; they have also ignored the evidence behind that recommendation of increasing difficulties in retaining experienced teachers.

This is what the STRB had to say about ‘Career progression and school leadership’: “In addition to ensuring that a sufficient number of good teachers can be recruited and retained in the profession, the teachers’ pay structure must also provide the right incentives for suitable teachers to progress to middle and senior leadership roles”.

“On our school visits, few of the classroom teachers we speak to aspire to become senior leaders, and few of the deputy or assistant heads we speak to wish to become head teachers. Many are put off by the responsibility and accountability that comes with such roles. To support an effective career pathway for school leaders, the level of pay on offer must be sufficient that people stepping up to such leadership positions feel that they are being fairly remunerated for the additional responsibilities and pressures they are taking on. We see evidence of emerging problems in recruiting and retaining school leaders, which indicates that this may not be the case”.

4. The STRB Report contains clear evidence as to why teachers’ pay needs a substantial increase

Here are just some of the charts within the Report that speak for themselves:

Figure 8 shows that the relative position of classroom teachers’ median earnings has continued to deteriorate. “All regions have seen a worsening position over the period from 2011/12 to 2016/17. In the last year, large drops were seen in the North East, West Midlands and Outer London. For the first time classroom teachers in the North East had median earnings below that for other professional occupations”. (That now means that in every region, median earnings are beneath those for other professional occupations).

Figure 9 confirms that, “while the value of points in the teachers’ pay framework grew by between 3% and 5% over the period (2010/11 to 2016/17), growth in the corresponding points in the whole economy earnings distribution was between 8% and 11%, and between 4% and 9% for the corresponding points in the earnings distribution for those in other professional occupations” or, in summary, “The value of key points in the teachers’ pay framework have deteriorated markedly in relation to the earnings distribution of those in other professional occupations across the wider economy”.

Given the Government’s decision to only recommend a lower increase on the Upper Pay Range, it’s worth noting that the biggest gap in the growth in pay between teachers and other professionals is at the Upper range!

Figure 21 shows how that deteriorating pay contributes to an ever increasing ‘wastage rate’ – just at a time when pupil numbers, and so demand for teachers, is increasing.Between 2011 and 2016, the percentage of teachers leaving within three years’ service increased from 20% to 26%, while the percentage leaving within their first five years increased from 27% to 31% over the same period”.

5. You will now earn more as a M6 teacher in Inner London than a U1 teacher in Outer London

STRB recommendations - NOT fully agreed by the DfE
The agreed STRB recommended award brings an M6 teacher’s salary in an Inner London Pay area borough to £40,372, an increase of 3.5% from £39,006.
If that 3.5% had been also applied to a U1 teacher in a neighbouring Outer London Pay area borough, the difference would have been slim – but at least they would still have earned more (£40,903). 

However, a 2% increase on the existing £39,519 U1 salary in Outer London raises their annual pay to just £40,309.  

Given the hoops that too many teachers have to go through to 'cross the threshold', many Outer London teachers will wonder whether it's worth the hassle and will look to move to an Inner London paying school instead. Even more Outer London schools will be struggling to retain their experienced staff.

Friday, 18 May 2018

London teachers discuss action on pay and housing to stop a growing recruitment crisis

Research released today by the NFER confirms what teachers in London schools already know - that the recruitment and retention crisis is getting worse.

Their key findings are:
  • London has a higher rate of young teachers leaving the profession than other large cities and the rest of England. It also has a steady outflow of teachers in their thirties and forties to teach elsewhere. The most important factor driving low teacher retention in London is higher housing costs.
  • London has more new entrants to its teacher workforce each year than in other large cities and the rest of England, driven by a greater proportion of newly qualified teachers (NQTs). But these new teachers are not enough to replace the many teachers who leave teaching in London each year.
  • Higher proportions of schools with vacancies and of unqualified teachers employed in London, compared to other areas, suggests that the labour market is already experiencing significant shortages in many areas.
  • Early-career teachers are accelerated into middle leadership positions more quickly in London than they are in other areas, due to a lack of more experienced teachers to fill the roles.
Here is just a selection of the graphs produced in the NFER Report that make the issues very clear:

This recruitment and retention crisis is putting London’s educational successes at risk.

For most school staff, the higher costs of living in London far exceed the additional salary they receive for working in a London school. Housing costs, particularly for the majority of younger staff who have to rely on private rented accommodation, eat up an increasing chunk of their take-home pay.

Childcare, student loan repayments and travel costs cut further into their income, especially for those teachers having to travel across central London to get to work. Taking long working hours into account too, the net hourly pay rate for London teachers after they’ve paid their essential bills is miserly.

That's why 2018 NUT Conference agreed that, alongside national campaigning, we should develop a Greater London Pay campaign. A meeting is being called on June 30 at NUT HQ to discuss what needs to be done:

Places at the meeting can also be confirmed via: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/nut-london-regional-office-17339008353

The meeting will also be hearing about the results of a survey of London teachers about their pay, travel and housing costs and their views on recruitment and retention in London: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LondonPay

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Taking action to stop teacher shortages in London

Every parent, every member of staff already knows that Government cuts are damaging our schools.

£2.8 BN has been stolen nationally since 2015. A borough like Waltham Forest is set to lose nearly £10M alone in real terms cuts by 2020.

Cuts mean fewer resources and fewer staff. That means worse education for children and greater workload for teachers. But it also means lower pay.

Why? Because the Review Body that sets teachers' pay rates says it can’t afford to recommend pay rises that schools say they can’t afford – which is why teachers’ pay has fallen by over 15% in real terms since 2010. 

Some parents might say, well that’s hard on teachers but if money’s short, I want it spending on my children, not on teachers’ pay? That would be making a big mistake. Not only would they be falling for the Government’s ‘race-to-the-bottom’ agenda, instead of sticking together against cuts, it will be their children that will lose out too – because failing to pay staff properly is creating a recruitment and retention crisis that means schools will be without staff to support their children.

NEU calls for better pay for teachers

Don’t take my word for it – the Review Body concluded last year that “Our analysis of the evidence for the current pay round shows that the trends in recruitment and retention evident last year have continued – teacher retention rates continued to fall and targets for recruitment continue to be missed. We are deeply concerned about the cumulative effect of these trends on teacher supply. We consider that this presents a substantial risk to the functioning of an effective education system".

In short, it is in everyone’s interests to pay teachers and school staff properly.

If that’s true nationally, it's even more significant in an Outer London borough like Waltham Forest.

The employers’ organisation, NEOST, has said that a number of London boroughs have been reporting turnover rates of staff at being as high as 25% a year!

The DfE’s own figures show that the Region with the highest number of schools reporting vacancies and temporarily filled posts is Outer London.

Is it any surprise? Londoners face higher living costs than anywhere else – for childcare and transport but, above all, for housing.

Most teachers now have to rent property as they have so little chance of getting on the housing ladder. Yet the latest April 2018 figures show rents for a 1-bed flat in Waltham Forest are between £950 and 1100 pcm, for a 3-bed property between £1500 and £1700.

Average rental values in England outside London are £761, in London they stand at £1588 – over twice as much. Do London teachers get paid twice as much – not at all! 

An excellent turnout at a packed public meeting in Leytonstone on 10 May

An Inner London teacher with five years' experience gets an additional £5,182 in salary compared to a teacher outside London - earning £39,006 compared to £33,824. For an Outer London teacher it's just £3,821 more, at £37,645.

Does £3,821 make up for the extra costs of living and working in London? – certainly not.

There used to be London Allowances awarded on a clear analysis of additional costs carried out by the Pay Board. However, the Tory Government got rid of it when Norman Tebbit was Employment Secretary in 1982.
Recent research by Donald Hirsch for the Trust for London and Loughborough University has tried to reproduce what an average "minimum London Weighting" would be now. Hirsch estimates it would be around £7,700 for Inner London and £6,200 for Outer London. 

Apart from those older teachers on the Inner London Upper Pay Scale, most teachers receive far less additional pay than required to meet that added cost of living. No wonder many are looking to leave.

On the NEU picket line at Connaught School

Things are even worse for a Waltham Forest teacher – why? Because some Outer London boroughs count as Inner London when it comes to teachers’ pay.

If you’re a Waltham Forest teacher struggling with your bills, then you could go to teach In Ealing, Newham, Brent, Barking & Dagenham, Haringey or Merton – and you’ll be paid on the Inner London scales – if you’re a UPS teacher, you’ll be over £4,000 a year better paid!

Small wonder some Waltham Forest schools are already advertising posts as being paid on equivalent to Inner London Pay.

We of course understand that, to pay at inner London rates, schools need to be funded like other boroughs where Inner London pay rates apply. In fact, even better, we want to see all London boroughs being funded to pay a cross-London weighting that reflects the greater costs of living right across the capital.

However, where we know schools already have a budget that could at least help address some of that shortfall – e.g at Connaught School – they should already be taking steps to support their staff. When Governors have identified a budget of £40,000 that could be used to pay additional salary– but there is an obstinate refusal to do so - that helps nobody. I would appeal to everyone to call on the employer and the Council to make a salary offer that can settle the dispute.

Instead of being in dispute, we’d like to be working together to win funds that Waltham Forest schools need – for resources, for staffing – and for pay.

As part of that campaign, we will consider strike action, After all, some of us who have been in London for a while know it was NUT strike action in 1990s, at another time when teachers shortages were growing, that helped bring significant increases in London pay rates.

It is in all our interests, parents, staff, and councillors, to mount a joint campaign. We welcome the fact that, arising out of the Connaught dispute, Waltham Forest Council have suggested a ‘task force’ to look at the ‘challenges around recruitment and retention’. However, we need the Council to be clear and recognise that this means, above all, pay.

Teachers and school staff deserve better, parents and children in Waltham Forest deserve better. Let’s demand fair funding for our schools, fair pay for our school staff, and an end to teacher shortages and cuts for our children.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Avenue School Governors withdraw plans for academy transfer


Front-page news in the latest copy of 'The Teacher'

The Governing Body of Avenue Primary School has confirmed that, at its meeting last Thursday, it took a decision NOT to move forward with plans to convert the school to academy status.

Martin Powell-Davies, London Regional Secretary, who spoke to the Governors’ meeting, said:

Staff and parents will be delighted to hear that, after a campaign that included nineteen days of strike action to oppose academy transfer, members of the National Education Union can now end their strikes, knowing that Avenue Primary is going to remain a community school.

The NEU would like to thank Avenue Governors for reaching this decision and all in the school community who took part in the vibrant campaign to oppose Avenue becoming an academy. 

The lively rallies on the school gates on strike days, always supported by dozens of local parents, left Governors in no doubt that the campaign showed no signs of weakening. The determination and unity across the school community shown at Avenue School over the last six months of action will be an inspiration to other campaigns organising to stop academisation in their schools. 

Unity was forged around the demand for a binding ballot of staff and parents to decide on academy transfer. The NEU offered to halt its strikes if such a ballot was agreed and proposed that meetings were held, and information circulated in community languages, so that parents could fully participate in deciding on the future of their school. Those demands should now be taken up by parents & staff of other schools to ensure genuine consultation over academisation.

Governors at Avenue must have known that the mounting evidence exposing academisation would mean a genuine debate could only reach one conclusion – to oppose transfer – and simply decided to withdraw their plans altogether. The energy and unity shown by both staff and parents in the campaign can now help Avenue School to further support children’s education. If there is any future attempt to revisit academisation, then the opposition will be even stronger!

The National Education Union made clear that we opposed academisation at Avenue because it would damage education and transfer the School to an unaccountable Multi Academy Trust. As a community school, parents will continue to be able to call on an elected Council for support. 

The Avenue campaign helped convince Newham councillors when they voted in February to oppose academisation and to support the call for staff and parental ballots. The NEU looks forward to working with Newham’s newly elected Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, in developing plans to support Newham schools, including through developing partnership arrangements that avoid the unnecessary educational risk and fragmentation that academisation inflicts on local schooling.

The NEU congratulates its members on their successful action. Their campaign, alongside others being organised across London, is turning the tide of public opinion against academisation.” 

Download the NEU statement here

Monday, 26 March 2018

Organising action, winning for education

Over the last few months, some tremendous campaigns - and some important victories - have been organised across the London Region by the National Education Union.

Some campaigns can be won just by organisation and good arguments - but it sometimes needs the threat of collective industrial action to make sure those arguments are heard! Here are a few examples:

The year began with an important victory at Charlton Park academy in Greenwich. Six days of GMB/NEU strikes led to talks at ACAS that secured an agreement that nationally negotiated Burgundy and Green Book rights would apply for all staff. 

The campaigns against academisation in Newham have been building ever since Avenue Primary School took its first day of strike action last year. Since then, NEU colleagues at Cumberland and Keir Hardie schools have also taken strike action.

They have been backed by a vigorous community campaign that has seen dozens of parents support NEU picket lines.

Now, that campaigning is beginning to win!

Avenue Primary was meant to have been converted this Easter - but Governors were unable to do so after a local parent won the first stage of their legal challenge at the High Court. The challenge, that the school had not carried out meaningful consultation, could go all the way to a full Judicial Review. If won, that could have significant consequences nationally.

It looked as if Governors at Keir Hardie Primary were going to vote for conversion on 19 April but, in the last week of term before Easter, parents were sent a letter saying they were not going to convert after all ! Newham’s campaign has also won support from local councillors, including the Labour Party’s new candidate for the Mayor and a motion was passed at the Full Council meeting that ‘strongly discourages’ schools from considering academisation and calls for binding parental and staff ballots in schools that still plan to academise. 

Even where our action could not stop transfer, like at Village School in Brent, the solid support for action has shown the strength of the Union and of the campaigns we are able to organise.

That may have helped contribute to another victory, at Leopold School in Brent, in a dispute over ‘unacceptable management style’. A last-minute deal secured in negotiations meant members were able to meet at the school-gates on the day of a planned strike, vote that they were happy with the outcome, and all go into work together!

Members at COLA Southwark look to have achieved important gains in a dispute over appraisal after taking strike action in March.

Meanwhile, members in a number of schools managed to resolve disputes before needing to go as far as taking strike action, sometimes just by applying pressure through calling for an indicative ballot. These included Nightingale in Enfield over workload, Haverstock in Camden and St Edwards in Havering over redundancies, Oaklands in Tower Hamlets over leave of absence policies, and St. Aloysius in Islington, over appraisal/performance management.

A number of disputes are ongoing, with some schools preparing for ballots or balloting over the Easter break. We’ve not got room to list them all, but two that should be highlighted are Acton High in Ealing (over a number of issues, including the threat of transfer to a new academy employer) and Connaught in Waltham Forest (seeking additional salary in this Outer London school). In both cases, more action is planned at the start of next term.

Look out for more updates and more victories. Let’s build members’ confidence to win more successes!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Get organised to turn workload pledges into reality in your school

“I want teachers to spend their working hours doing what’s right for children and to reduce the amount of time spent on unnecessary tasks”
Damian Hinds, Education Secretary

“I am committed to tackling workload, and supporting everyone in education to do the same”
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector

Download this article as a newsletter here 
Let’s turn promises into reality

How did you feel when you heard that Ofsted and the DfE have released a video promising that they want to tackle teacher workload? 

Relief? - that the government finally realises they have to act on workload if they are going to stop the recruitment and retention crisis?
Cynicism? - that this is just another headline-grabbing announcement that will be ignored by your School Management Team?
Anger? - that they won’t act on the testing, league tables, budget cuts and performance pay that lie behind so much teacher workload?

All three of those reactions are justified but, as union members, our response has to be:

Determination! - that the government is under pressure and now we have to organise in our schools to turn promises into reality.

Organise in your school 

This video gives school staff a real opportunity to demand change on workload. However, the accountability regime that weighs down on schools could too easily mean that it changes nothing. The main factor that will decide is US! If NEU members organise, you can win change in your school. 

Here’s how Kevin Courtney, NEU Joint General Secretary, has suggested you can do it:

“Ofsted’s Amanda Spielman, backed by Secretary of State Damian Hind, says: “If the impact on pupil progress doesn’t match the hours you spend marking then stop it!”

So who is to judge the match between the hours you spend and progress made?

Surely this should be a professional judgement for the teacher? It is potentially a complicated judgement. The teachers’ own level of fatigue comes into it as well as the suitability or otherwise of any marking scheme the head insists on. The vast majority of the profession know, for example, that the dialogue, triple marking schemes lead to standardised comments from the pupil and pro-forma responses from the teacher. Almost no learning takes place but huge numbers of hours are consumed.

However in the current climate of Ofsted and accountability fear many heads don’t allow teachers this level of professional judgement.

This is undoubtedly bad for our children’s education. The more downtrodden and alienated a teacher feels, the more likely to leave the profession for example.

That’s why professional judgement must be supported, bolstered, by collective action.

The key thing with this new Government/Ofsted video is that staff (union members) discuss it collectively. They decide what changes they want the head to make - then they elect some people (union reps) to tell the head.

The video can support that process. It can’t replace that process.

If the head doesn’t move then the union members have to decide their next steps. Do they let it lie? Do they leave the school? Or do they approach the union for help?

In these circumstances the local union reps would approach the head, along with school reps, and again make the case, perhaps bringing in other local examples of where change has already taken place.

If that still doesn’t work then the staff have the same decisions to make. But in many situations like this staff ask for an “indicative ballot”. This tests the strength of feeling without formally calling a strike and oftentimes the head will see that they really should change their position.

As our final step we would ballot for sustained (that is paid) strike action. There are very many examples where staff have won agreements like this which have reduced their workload, increased their scope for making their own judgements as to what helps their pupils learn, and in so doing has improved education.

Professional judgement and collective action go hand-in-hand. 

Join the National Education Union to boost both

Get in touch to get organised

In the last few months, schools across the London Region have taken these steps and over 20 have asked for an indicative ballot - sometimes then a formal ballot - on workload and other demands like over pay, job cuts, or opposing bullying or academy transfers. Most have achieved gains as a result.

So get in touch with the NEU - either through your Local NUT Division or the London Regional Office - and get organised to win change in your school.

What needs to change?
In response to NEU posts about the video, teachers have been posting on social media about what has to change if workload is going to be cut.

Here are just a few of the suggestions posted:
●    Excessive monitoring requirements such as planning submitted in advance;
●    Filling in forms for monitoring, rather than trusting to people's professionalism;
●    Lots of extra SEND paperwork because LAs are refusing to assess due to funding cuts;
●    Repeating the same data in different formats;
●    Too great an amount of contact time, or number of classes, that a teacher is expected to teach;
●    Contacting parents by ‘phone and having to record the results of such calls;
●    Excessive data entry and analysis;
●    Observations, book scrutiny, learning walks, planning scrutiny and pupil progress meetings;
●    Schools are cutting back on support staff  - e.g. so teachers have no-one to do bulk copying;
●    Schools need to apply “rarely cover” properly;
●    Email overload.... and the expectation that you'll read and respond before the end of the day. 

Discuss what needs to be changed in your school - and decide what needs to be done to win change.

What changes can be won?

All schools are under pressure from budget cuts and the government’s punitive accountability regime but, despite this, some schools have taken action to significantly reduce staff workload.

Some of these changes have been won through union groups getting organised and negotiating change, sometimes backed up by action ballots. In London, schools have won changes such as limits on contact time and observations, or reduced workload through winning a work/life balance policy or improved performance management policies. 

Nationally, some employers, like Nottingham and Coventry, have agreed ‘workload charters’ with unions that place a limit on overall working hours - not just teachers’ 1265 hours ‘directed time’.

The DfE/Ofsted video includes examples of schools that have cut workload through changing their marking policy (with no effect on pupil outcomes!) or data collection requirements.

As one of the Heads featured in the video says, “it can take brave leadership to tackle existing orthodoxies in schools and get rid of routines that are sometimes established and expected”. Indeed, and perhaps NEU members can encourage a few more school leaders to be brave and cut workload!

If you have good examples of improved policies or other changes that you have won, tell the NEU!