Sunday 24 November 2019

Ofsted try to ignore teachers' contracts (again!) - vote to scrap Ofsted on 12 December!

A very useful set of advice on the latest Ofsted inspection framework has been circulated to NEU members this weekend. The advice reminds members of their contractual rights - rights which Ofsted either don't understand or, more to the point, want Heads to ignore.

The advice follows reports of the difficult experiences suffered by NEU members during Ofsted inspections since the new framework was introduced earlier this year. 

As the NEU advice explains, under the new arrangements "inspectors are doing ‘deep dives’ into subjects, agreed in the pre-inspection phone call with the head teacher … and, as part of the ‘deep dive’, inspectors meet with subject leaders". 

The problem with this structure is that it's based on the assumption that staff are being paid and contracted to carry out those roles as subject leaders. However, especially in primary schools, that often isn't the case. 

Many primary staff - and sometimes experienced 'Upper Pay Range' staff in secondary schools as well - have been pressurised into leading on subject areas without any additional responsibility payment (TLR). Just as significantly given the intolerable workload on staff, many have also not been given any additional non-contact time to carry out these additional responsibilities. 

If left unchallenged, Ofsted's new framework will make these abuses become even more common than they are already.

Ofsted - trying to override teachers' contractual conditions

The statutory conditions set out in the School Teachers Pay and Conditions' Document (and a very similar document applying in Wales) leave a lot to be desired, failing in particular to clearly limit teachers' overall working hours. 

However, on this issue they are crystal clear: “Teachers are expected to contribute ... to curriculum development by sharing their professional expertise with colleagues and advising on effective practice. This does not mean that they can be expected to take on the responsibility of, and accountability for, a subject area or to manage other teachers without appropriate additional payment. Responsibilities of this nature should be part of a post that is in the leadership group or linked to a post which attracts a TLR [payment]” (2019 STPCD Section 3 para 48).

Paragraph 52.6 of Section 2 on "Management Time" states that such a teacher with leadership or management responsibilities is also entitled to additional time for discharging those responsibilities.

NEU advice - "Act now, and act together!"

The NEU, correctly, is advising members to stand together as a union group and refuse to be bullied by management and/or Ofsted into overriding their contractual rights. 

The NEU advises that, during Ofsted inspections:

  • If you have not been given the necessary non-contact time and other support to undertake the responsibilities of subject leader, you should not attend meetings with inspectors without the presence of a senior member of staff who will contribute to the discussion of the curriculum, its delivery and monitoring, throughout the school.
  • If you do attend a meeting with inspectors, with or without a senior member of staff present, you should make it clear to inspectors that the NEU, your union, has advised you that you cannot be held responsible for the quality of the curriculum in the subject deep dive, because your school has been unable to give you additional time or to pay you for that responsibility. 
  • If you are in a small school where there is no-one else who could take on the responsibility of, and accountability for, a subject area or to manage other teachers, the school leader should write to the lead inspector in the region to state that the school cannot implement a part, or parts of the Quality of Education judgment requirements, because it does not have the resources necessary to provide staff with the time and payment to undertake those responsibilities fully.

Time to abolish these Ofsted bullies!

From Labour's Manifesto for 'Real Change'
Unfortunately, Ofsted, and the threat of Ofsted 'failure', has been used to bully school staff into taking on unreasonable workload for far too long. 

That's why teachers will be heartened to see Labour's General Election manifesto saying the following:

"Schools are being subjected to intensified testing, inspection, league tables and competition. These aren’t improving pupil achievement or narrowing the attainment gap, but are contributing to a growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis" … " We will replace Ofsted and transfer responsibility for inspections to a new body, designed to drive school improvement". 

Every NEU member needs to make sure that this latest bullying behaviour is the impetus we need to say "enough is enough". Act together to stand up to the bullies and Vote together for the abolition of Ofsted on 12 December! 

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