Growing dissent over pay reforms

16th December 2005 at 00:00
Teachers who have lost out in salary restructuring have opted for strike action. Jon Slater reports.

Fourteen teachers at Hipperholme and Lightcliffe secondary school this week became the first to strike over controversial changes to senior staff pay.

Members of the National Union of Teachers walked out of the school in Halifax on Tuesday over its plan to abolish head of department posts and replace them with a new faculty system.

The school was one of four expected to suffer industrial action this week by NUT members over the replacement of management allowances with teaching and learning responsibility points.

Individuals can lose up to pound;10,500 a year as a result of the changes, which do not let schools award allowances for administrative tasks.

About 400 children were forced to stay at home as a result of the strike at Hipperholme and Lightcliffe, including all pupils in Years 7 and 8.

The school plans to cut the number of management posts by scrapping head of department positions and merging departments into new subject faculties.

This, according to the NUT, will reduce by half the number of teachers eligible for responsibility payments.

Mick Clark, one of the strikers, said his head of physics post, which attracts a management allowance worth pound;3,300, would disappear as part of the changes. It would be replaced by a new head and deputy of science and technology.

"I am fearful for young teachers," he said. "If a new physics teacher replaced me and he or she was at all ambitious, there is no career structure in the school for them. They would move to a school where there is a TLR for physics."

Karen Mort, the headteacher, said the new staffing structure would cost the school pound;28,000 a year.

She accused the NUT of acting precipitously by taking action before details of the review were finalised. The school was expected to reveal its latest proposals to teachers as The TES went to press.

Mrs Mort said: "Only a small number of the NUT members may be affected by the proposed restructure and all of these staff will have an opportunity to secure one of the new teaching and learning allowances.

"They will also have an opportunity through the appointments to secure a raise in salary."

The temperature of the dispute was raised by a letter sent to parents on Monday naming the striking staff.

Shaun Sagar, head of history and NUT representative at the school, said:

"Members feel bemused by it all and can't see why it was necessary to name them."

Mrs Mort said naming teachers was the easiest way of informing parents which classes would be cancelled.

As The TES went to press, NUT members were expected to stage further one-day strikes over TLRs on Thursday at Plumstead Manor, in Greenwich, Shaftesbury primary, in Newham, and Northcliffe secondary, in Doncaster.

The NUT is holding formal ballots in a further 16 schools and has held indicative ballots, designed to show the strength of feeling, among members in 182 schools.

Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, said: "The union is determined to act where members are threatened with pay loss. The first strikes this week could be followed by more next term if the disputes with individual schools remain unresolved.

"The union wants to settle these disputes and has emphasised to the schools concerned that we are ready to re-start negotiations to find settlements."

* jon.slater@tes.co.uk

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