Pay and conditions - Support for workforce disputes

27th February 2009 at 00:00
The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, debated in Parliament for the first time on Monday, will have an impact on many aspects of school life. Over the next three pages we examine some key areas of influence

Teacher union leaders are expecting a fall in strikes and other industrial action because of new laws that could give thousands of schools in breach of pay and conditions rules just 15 working days to change or risk losing control of their budgets.

The get-tough package, first revealed by The TES last year, was originally aimed at heads who flout the school workforce agreement which is designed to reduce teacher workload. But this week it emerged that the measures will cover all teacher pay and conditions and will make schools that fail to abide by them subject to direct central government as well as local authority action.

Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, the teachers' union, said it provided a much more efficient means of redress for teachers denied the pay or conditions they were legally entitled to.

"This will help many teachers who feel too frightened to put their head over the parapet," she said.

"It is extremely helpful because at the moment we have to try and resolve these issues through industrial action. Now breaches can be referred straight to local authorities."

As well as workforce agreement cases, Ms Keates said her union planned to use the new laws to tackle schools that broke the three hour annual limit on the classroom observation of teachers.

It would also work where schools failed to provide newly qualified teachers with the 10 per cent of teaching time they are supposed to be given for training. The NASUWT's work with NQTs suggests three-quarters of them do not get the time.

With a TES poll last year showing that only 47 per cent of teachers said their school had implemented the workforce agreement in full, thousands of schools could face sanctions under the new law.

It comes in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill and would mean any school breaching teacher pay and conditions laws would be subject to local authority warning notices.

Schools that failed to comply with the notices after three weeks could then have the local authority take control of their budget, see external governors parachuted in or have hit-squads completely take control of the governing body.

If the issue is still not resolved, the secretary of state for schools could direct a local authority to consider giving the school a warning notice and also has the power to intervene and change the governing body.

Ms Keates said she thought the mere existence of the legislation, currently going through Parliament, would help persuade schools comply with teacher pay and condition rules.

She also thought it would reduce industrial action. Last year the NASUWT alone balloted for action around a dozen times over pay and conditions in individual schools. There were many more cases where action was threatened, but the issue was resolved before a ballot took place.

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