'A kick in the teeth'

16th December 2005 at 00:00
Teachers are angry and dispirited by pay cuts imposed by heads they claim have changed management allowances without enough thought. Elaine Williams reports

Grace is a teacher who just gets on with it. She is a grafter in the classroom, enjoys being with the students, is loyal to the school she has worked in for 30 years, does what she is asked to do and has been commended by Ofsted inspectors.

So when, seven years from retirement, she is called into the head's office and told that pound;2,000 is to be deducted from her salary because the management job she has taken on - co-ordinating the school's visits programme - is no longer recognised as a teacher's responsibility under restructuring, she is stunned into speechlessness, followed by hysterical laughter.

"I couldn't believe what was happening to me," she says. "It was like being back in the shipyards in the 1930s. The head was saying, 'You have done your job well, we've never had any complaints, but we are taking pound;2,000 away from you'. I just started to laugh.

"Do people like me mean so little to schools that heads can do this to us? It's not just the money, or the way my pension will be adversely affected, it's also about my sense of worth."

Grace, like many teachers in middle to lower management, is affected by the switch from management allowances to teaching and learning responsibilities (TLRs) under workforce reforms designed to shift senior staff away from pastoral and administrative duties towards raising standards. Grace does not dispute that change is sometimes necessary: "Most of us affected would choose to do another job under the new teaching and learning restructuring, but we weren't given that choice. I don't see how the Government is going to promote teaching and learning with a demoralised workforce. We are not talking about failing teachers here, so why do things in this fashion?"

Seven other teachers face pay cuts in Grace's large London secondary as the school wipes out deputy heads of year posts. One stands to lose up to Pounds 4,000. But Grace argues that it is teachers first and foremost who are being penalised. Moreover, she questions where administration ends and the promotion of teaching and learning begins: "The people hit are those who teach a full timetable, who have taken on a few extra duties, but are not that interested in climbing the ladder. What about photocopying? Or ringing up parents to tell them that their children are doing well or are struggling? Is that about teaching or is it administrative? In any case we are expected to carry on with all that for less money."

Schools have until the end of the year to finish consulting on management restructuring plans. From January 1, management allowances will cease, though payments for these posts will be protected for three years. In an agreement thrashed out between teaching unions (the National Union of Teachers excepted), government and local authority officials, they will be replaced by teaching and learning responsibility payments. Strict criteria will apply to the payment of TLR 1, the upper level (ranging from pound;6,500 to pound;11,000) and TLR 2, the lower level (ranging from pound;2,250 to pound;5,000), regarded as representing a seismic shift in staffing structures which the Government believes will raise standards in the long run.

However, some heads of department who currently receive substantial management allowances will receive far less under the new arrangements.

Take Tom, a head of modern languages in the south west, currently on an MA4, who will only qualify for a TLR 2:

"I have three people under me in the department, but the head has decided that to qualify for TLR 1 you have to manage five or more and that is just a kick in the teeth as far as I am concerned. We get the best results in the school. A pay cut like this makes me feel that I cannot carry on the job because of the injustice.

"I am 38 years old, doing a job I love, and when I came to this school I was excited by the position. I still love teaching languages but don't feel it is worth being in middle management any more. I think there will be a drift away from these positions. I have made it clear that when the transition period comes to an end in 2008, I will not carry on in the same job for less money. It's a question of fairness.

"I cannot even go for the Excellent Teacher scheme (like Advanced Skills Teachers but without the outreach work) because the school has decided not to apply it on the grounds that it is divisive. But for teachers like me who are good in the classroom and help other teachers, it is worthwhile. I feel I am facing a closed door."

Rachel, who shares a second-in-command of English post in South Gloucestershire, stands to lose pound;1,500 because it is not possible to share a TLR payment. Around 11 staff in her 1,100-pupil secondary school face pay cuts.

Some teachers are also losing out because their schools are moving from departments to faculties. In a nearby Gloucestershire secondary where this is the case, some heads of faculty stand to lose as much as pound;8,000.

Rachel says: "People feel very angry, but also devastated. They feel grossly under-valued and let down.

"If pay is taken away from me I will not carry out extra responsibilities.

I will not take extra work home with me. We feel here that the head simply wants to deal with fewer managers."

Even those organisations that signed up to the TLR agreement now believe that some heads are being panicked into poor decisions by an impossible timescale for such fundamental change. Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, says heads are facing 65 different initiatives this term, ranging from extended schools to personalised learning. There are signs that some schools have gone down the assimilation route; that is, they have carried their current management structure over into TLRs.

"That is not what was intended, but heads need more time," he says. "They should realise that they need only show that they have consulted before December 31. The changes don't have to be in place until December 2008."

Some heads fear, however, that no change in management structure well before that deadline would be hard to justify to Ofsted.

John Dunford, SHA general secretary, believes schools face a welcome opportunity to create a more "logical" responsibility structure for present day needs and is clearly frustrated by the uproar and confusion. He says:

"Restructuring happens in every walk of life and all restructuring, when it relates to people's pay and conditions of service, is bound to be difficult. It is a task that must be carried out thoroughly. Heads are not going to be put in jail for failing to meet the deadline."

The NUT is carrying out ballots for action in tens of school and even the NASUWT, one of the signatories to the TLR agreement, is threatening action if heads or governors view restructuring as a money-saving exercise or use it to disadvantage members of staff "whose faces do not fit".

Mike Grant teaches geography and IT and is a quality assurance manager at Brumby engineering college, Scunthorpe, an 11 to 16 specialist engineering and ICT college. He says that senior managers in his school have taken a long-term view and started the restructuring process three years ago in order to radically improve GCSE results which at that time were among the worse in the country. They have doubled in the past two years and now stand at 48 per cent A to C passes; a direct result, in his view, of staff restructuring, with as many support staff as teachers pushing forward the whole teaching and learning process. Nobody, however, has lost out. He says: "In our school the management system is transparent and of real benefit because it recognises professionalism. All staff have been taken forward with it.

"Restructuring has not been viewed as a cost-cutting exercise, but for the long-term health of the institution."

Mr Grant, who is the NASUWT national executive member for North East Lincolnshire, Hull and the East Riding, and a member of the Steer committee on behaviour, believes hundreds of schools are paying for the failure of heads to put proper job descriptions in place. Some heads, he says, have ruled through patronage and are now panicking at the necessity to create job descriptions that reflect classroom practice.

He says: "That should not mean reducing pay. If restructuring is done properly there should be jobs for existing people to go for. Teachers are being penalised for senior managers' lack of vision."

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