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Beware an autumn cloudburst

Spring is in the air, but for every head in England a large black cloud is looming on the horizon. That cloud is the review of staffing structure that every school must complete by December 31 to replace management allowances with new payments for teaching and learning responsibilities (TLRs) and higher salaries for experienced teachers.

While the finishing line is getting closer, the starter's pistol has yet to be fired, and will not be until we have a new government to issue the necessary guidance.

It was going to be tricky even without this time pressure. Thousands of teachers - often longer-serving, often in secondary schools - received management payments but won't get the very tightly-defined TLRs. Primary school finances mean there are fewer staff on the old allowances, but that doesn't mean there is no resentment about not getting new ones.

Particularly in primaries, the process coincides with the most difficult phase of the workload agreement timetable.

Unions who signed up to the new salary deal did so with their eyes wide open: change was inevitable and the alternatives under consideration by the School Teachers' Review Body were worse.

Most heads support the changes, because they may ease budgets a little and ensure that extra pay reflects current school priorities and post-workload agreement staffing changes. Many anticipate a real chance to examine and redefine the way their school works.

Another plus is a transition period of three years during which the old payments will continue and schools can introduce changes according to their own timetable.

Change is the most difficult thing for any organisation to manage, and time and mood are essential components. The Government's professional advisers in the implementation review unit, and the consultancy Head Support, are right to raise concerns.

Enough goodwill and time remain - just - for schools to meet the deadline.

But the message for the new government is clear: get that guidance out immediately, listen during the (brief) consultation period, and make all the right noises. Otherwise it could be a stormy autumn.

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