Telephone service aims to ease the pressure on a review of school staff structures. William Stewart reports
Schools struggling to review their staffing structures by the end of the year will from next term be able to turn to a telephone helpline for advice.
Heads are having to review their staff as part of changes to the management allowances system and will have to allocate teaching and learning responsibility payments.
The change is controversial because it is expected to mean pay cuts for thousands of teachers. Heads must complete the process by December 31.
The helpline launch follows growing concerns from heads' leaders, consultants and Government advisors, that the time scale could be too tight.
It is being set up by the Rewards and Incentives Group (RIG), made up of unions, the Government and employers.
From September RIG will also be running five regional workshops and providing a self assessment tool kit allowing schools to identify where they need further assistance.
This week it published a list of answers to 66 frequently asked questions on the staffing reviews on the teachernet website.
The package of help was annou-nced by Jacqui Smith, school standards minister, who said the reviews were "an opportunity for all school staff and the trade unions to have a say and stake in shaping the roles and responsibilities of the whole school workforce".
Schools will also be expected to re-examine the role of every teacher and member of support staff and decide whether to include deputy or assistant heads and excellent or advanced skilled teachers in their schools. The top ten RIG tips for heads carrying out staffing reviews are:
* Consult all school staff and their recognised union representatives.
* Do not rush to complete reviews before the deadline as this could compromise proper consultation with staff and unions.
* There is no single staffing structure that fits the needs of every school: schools should come up with their own model.
* Because schools can tailor their own solutions there is no need for additional expenditure.
* Any savings made should be prioritised for the teachers' pay bill and remodelling the workforce.
* If schools make costly decisions it is only right they should have to pay for the financial consequences of these decisions.
* Any slippage in the December 31 deadline to finalise the structure could place schools in difficulties with unions. Support will be available from RIG and local authorities to help schools meet it.
* Schools can phase in their changes between January 2006 to December 2008 or introduce them in one go.
* Local authority procedures for school reorganisations are unlikely to be helpful, as they are usually based around redundancies, not expected to result from the staffing reviews.
* Where there is a clear match between a member of staff's existing responsibilities and a post in the new structure they can simply slot them in to that position.
Taken from RIG's answers to frequently asked questions on the reviews at www.teachernet.gov.uk