Career Clinic

This week, Professor John Howson advises on timing a fresh start and salary rights when a school shuts

Negotiating start dates

I am a headteacher and I want to relocate to another part of the country. I have been invited to an interview for a headship. However, the school would want me to start in January and my contract says I have to give a term's notice. I would prefer to start after Easter, especially as I have to relocate. Am I being unreasonable? Or can I be released early?

If you are in the publicly funded sector, the resignation period for headteachers is normally three months in the autumn and spring, and four months for the summer. Some schools will wait for a period to secure the best person for their headship if they are not available for the preferred starting date. But it may depend on how many candidates are interviewed and the strength of the opposition you face during the selection process.

Personally, I wouldn't discuss any alternative starting date, unless asked, until after you have been offered the post. In the end, if you want the headship you would probably have to accept the terms in relation to a starting date on offer. The governors at the other school might not want to budge if you suggest a later date, but a compromise can sometimes be worked out, depending on why the outgoing head is leaving.

Most headships begin in September and many heads don't like leaving mid-year, as they feel it can unsettle staff and pupils. It will no doubt help if there is someone at the other school who can act as a temporary head, unless the existing head is prepared to stay on for another term. If it just means delaying their retirement by three months, this can sometimes happen. But if the outgoing head already has a new job lined up, it probably won't be possible. I do not think the fact that you will be relocating will influence matters with your governors, as they will just expect you to find somewhere to rent.

Fears over redundancy pay

My school may be closed down. We came out of special measures three years ago, but we have not received any help or guidance from the local education authority since. And we are due another visit from Ofsted. My question is: if the school closes, will staff still receive a salary for a time afterwards?

If you are made redundant, you will be eligible for redundancy pay providing you have worked for your employer for two years. The statutory amount of pay will depend on your length of service. For years of service between the ages of 22 and 41, you would receive a week of pay for each year up to a maximum of #163;400 per week. This goes up to 1.5 weeks per year for service over the age of 41. So, if you had 10 years of service, with five years over the age of 41, that would equate to 12.5 weeks at #163;400 (since you would be earning more than the maximum). This would result in a payout of #163;5,000.

At present, any redundancy payment below #163;30,000 is paid tax-free and without national insurance deductions, although I believe no national insurance credit is paid for the weeks covered. It may be that a better deal than the statutory minimum can be negotiated by your professional association, perhaps to reflect your actual weekly pay rather than the maximum set by the Government.

You should consider looking for other jobs now - it is always easier to find work from a job than from the position of being unemployed, whatever the cause of the unemployment - even though this might mean you would receive either no redundancy pay or a reduced amount. Once a redundancy agreement has been reached, you will have the right to time off to look for a new job and can, in some cases, ask for retraining.

Professor John Howson is our resident career expert, with 40 years in education, including spells as a teacher, academic, school recruitment researcher and government adviser.

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