Head unmoved by allowance strikes

27th January 2006 at 00:00
School faces more one-day stoppages over plans to strip six teachers of pay for pastoral duties. Jon Slater reports

Ed Collins makes no apologies for being at the centre of a national dispute over senior staff pay.

The head of Todmorden high in Calderdale is facing a series of one-day strikes by members of the National Union of Teachers who are angry at changes to the school's staffing structure.

The union, which accuses Mr Collins of using children as guinea pigs, held a one-day strike last week over the way the school plans to replace management allowances with teaching and learning responsibility payments.

But while the NUT protests at individual teachers' loss of salary and status, Mr Collins, a member of the Association of School and College Leaders' executive, insists the changes will improve the education on offer to his pupils.

He plans to replace six head of year posts with the same number of non-teaching pastoral managers who will be paid only in term time. The school's special needs co-ordinator will no longer have to be a qualified teacher.

In all, the 24 teaching posts which attract management allowances will be replaced by 17 which qualify for the new teaching and learning responsibility payments.

Mr Collins said: "This is not about my heads of year who are fabulous. It is about trying to enhance the role of teachers, about freeing them to do what they are really good at," he said.

"A head of year who is spending time meeting the pastoral needs of a child faces a difficult decision if they are due to go and teach. Children in their GCSE class may suffer if they are not there."

He said there had been extensive debate between the governors and staff over the changes and that a working group had been set up to look at the cost in terms of status and pay. But Mr Collins believes the school's special needs co-ordinator does not need to be a teacher. More important may be the ability to work with other agencies for its 40 pupils who have statements.

The NUT plans three further one-day strikes on February 1, 21 and 23 unless a compromise can be reached.

Sue McMahon, Calderdale NUT secretary, asked: "Why is the head wanting to experiment on children's education and use them as guinea pigs?"

Todmorden is one of 28 schools where NUT members have voted for strike action over the replacement of management allowances which will cost individual teachers up to pound;10,500-a-year.

Teachers have walked out at nine schools - a figure the NUT expects to rise to 50 in the coming weeks. Teachers at about 250 schools have indicated support for action through informal votes.

The replacement of management allowances with TLRs, which cannot be awarded for administrative tasks, was agreed between the Government and the NASUWT, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the ASCL as part of wider reform of the school workforce.

Under the deal all schools were supposed to have agreed their new staffing structure by the end of December. But heads have admitted that some schools failed to meet that deadline because of staff appeals and because it took them too long to work through the issues.

Despite his support for the government changes, Mr Collins believed they could have been better handled.

* jon.slater@tes.co.uk

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