July 2016

The know zone

  • Testing times
    What do the controversial Key Stage 2 tests really mean for how schools assess children – and how the government assesses schools? Julie McCulloch looks for some answers. More
  • Bye bye benchmark?
    It is in the government’s interest, as well as the profession’s, to retain a national standard for pay and conditions, argues Sara Ford. More
  • Progress report
    As the first recommendations from the post-16 area based reviews are announced Kevin Gilmartin looks at what has happened so far. More
  • Ask a silly question...
    Children are adept at spotting the flaws in our interrogation techniques, as Carolyn Roberts knows too well. More
  • Urgent business
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Moving on up...
    What are the key things that you think should be in place to ensure that pupils are ready to start secondary school? How do you help your new pupils to settle in? Is your school doing something innovative to help the transition go smoothly? Here, ASCL members share their views… More
  • Decoding the data
    Are you ready for Progress 8? David Blow looks at what this major change to accountability will mean… More
  • Building a generation of lifesavers
  • Planning for Maths and English November GCSE resits
    A student who has a grade D or below in both GCSE maths and English will need to be enrolled on a GCSE in both subjects in each academic year and is required to continue to study both of these until they achieve at least a grade C in the current GCSE or a grade 4 in the new GCSE. More
Bookmark and Share

It is in the government’s interest, as well as the profession’s, to retain a national standard for pay and conditions, argues Sara Ford.

Bye bye benchmark?

When the Education White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere was launched in March, we learnt a lot about the government’s plans for the education system, including confirmation of their plans for all schools to either become academies or be in the process of converting to academy status by the end of 2020.

Following pressure, the government may no longer deem it necessary to legislate to achieve this aim but they have reaffirmed their continued determination to see all schools become academies in the next six years.

Yet there is still a lot that has been left unsaid, including some of the implications of a system where local authorities no longer maintain schools. One of these implications is at the very core of what we all take for granted: our pay and conditions of service.

What is the risk?

The School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) is responsible for considering matters in relation to the pay, professional duties or working time of school teachers in England and Wales. These matters are referred to them for consideration by the Secretary of State, who then decides whether to accept, reject or amend any recommendations they make.

The matters referred to the STRB are designed, in part, to ensure that the pay and conditions of teachers remain competitive and help to ensure that sufficient quality and quantity of teachers enter the profession. The accepted recommendations of the STRB form part of the contract by which teachers in maintained schools are employed, the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).

But the STPCD is only statutory for maintained schools: one of the ‘freedoms’ academies have is to set their own pay and conditions for staff.

Despite this, the vast majority of academies have chosen to follow the STPCD as a minimum when setting their pay policy. Indeed, many independent schools use the STPCD, and the annual pay recommendations made by the STRB, as a useful benchmark for their own arrangements.

However, if there are no maintained schools it could be argued that there is no reason for the STRB to exist and, therefore, for the STPCD to be updated. In which case it will quickly become irrelevant.

This would mean that there would no longer be a national standard for pay and conditions.

From an academy/trust point of view, this means that they would need to negotiate their own pay and conditions with the unions and agree annually pay increases and any adjustments to conditions of service. This is going to be very time-consuming and bureaucratic, as well as potentially inflationary as negotiators argue for improved pay and conditions for their members.

For individuals, the issues are also going to be significant. There will be no clear career progression structure and it is highly unlikely that any employer will ever sign up to continuity of service as part of the conditions of service or contract as they could not be sure of the previous conditions of employment and what they were agreeing to. Therefore, each time you got a job with a new employer you would be starting from scratch as far as non-statutory sickness, maternity or redundancy pay is concerned.

Nor do we think this is actually a particularly attractive picture for government. Without a mechanism to manipulate the pay and conditions of the profession they lose a lever to influence policy initiatives.

The White Paper itself talked about the need to help schools by ensuring that great teachers are encouraged to work where they are most needed, and changes to pay and conditions is one of the ways in which this can be achieved. Surely, they won’t want to give this up?

Strategic view

So what may happen to the STRB and STPCD? Well the most radical option is to have no national benchmark at all and, as I have said, to leave all pay and conditions arrangements for multi-academy trusts/ academies to negotiate on an individual basis.

But for the reasons outlined above, ASCL is making trusts aware of the risks associated with this and we are asking them to help persuade the government of the benefits of retaining a national benchmark.

This would allow the Secretary of State to continue to issue remits that looked strategically across the landscape and sought to make adjustments that had a proper impact on recruitment and retention.

However, as now, academies and trusts would be free to choose whether or not to adopt the STPCD, following consultation with the recognised unions.

As yet, the DfE has not shown its hand and it remains to be seen whether or not it will support a national benchmark or whether we are heading for an unregulated free for all…

Sara Ford is ASCL Pay, Conditions and Employment Specialist