April 2018

The know zone

  • Bold fashion statement
    Reckoning that pupils who sported designer handbags could be less likely to succeed than their purse-free peers, one headteacher describes what led to her decision to de-accessorise in the classroom. More
  • Un-social media?
    With more and more social media platforms becoming available, and with the rise in the number of news reports on how social media is affecting children's mental health and wellbeing, we asked ASCL members to share their thoughts on this. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    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
  • Empower yourself
    Val Andrew explores the theme for this year's ASCL School Business Leaders' Conference - 'Empowering Agile Leadership'. More
  • Next steps to higher learning
    Schools now have a statutory duty to allow further education (FE) colleges and other providers on to their premises to talk to their pupils. Here, Kevin Gilmartin examines the so-called 'Baker clause'. More
  • Pregnancy and maternity
    We have seen an increase in member queries on pregnancy and maternity, but before you stop reading, thinking, "This so isn't for me," says Sara Ford, please be aware that the issues being raised need to be understood by anyone managing staff. More
  • Speak up
    We must start talking more about SEND funding and stop using the complexity of this provision as a barrier for not doing so, says Julia Harnden. More
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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.

Leaders’ surgery

My rights when signed off work

Q: I am a deputy head and I have been signed off from work following an operation. I have been given a fit note for 12 weeks stating that I am unable to work. I am receiving pressure from the MAT to undertake work at least at home and have been told that if Ofsted ‘were to call’, the MAT would expect me to come into school to meet the inspection team to discuss my areas of responsibility.

A: The fit note is intended to give employers guidance about an employee’s fitness to work. The document, Getting the Most out of the Fit Note: Guidance for employers and line managers (https://tinyurl.com/ybecolys), explains in some detail how the note should be used, but goes from the premise that it is better for everyone, including the employee, if the employee is able to work, even in a reduced or adapted capacity. The tick boxes mean that your doctor can indicate the kind of general adaptations that may help you return to work. The suggested capacities are:

  • a phased return to work: a gradual increase in work duties or hours
  • altered hours: changing work times or total hours
  • amended duties: changing work duties
  • workplace adaptations: changing aspects of the workplace

There may well be times when it is not possible for the employee to work in any capacity, for example, if they were lying on their back, or with their leg constantly elevated, or if their current mental health is such that any contact with work would be detrimental to recovery.

The deputy head who has posed the question may well be asked to attend an Occupational Health Appointment, or may find the Fit for Work website useful (www.fitforwork.org). If s/he is not fit to be physically in the school building, it may be possible to consider a phone call with an inspector (although when someone has had a protracted period of ill-health absence from school, they may not be the person best placed to have a discussion with an inspector) or undertaking some work that can be done on a laptop at home. The most important thing is to maintain a dialogue between the school and the employee.

Thinking about retirement

Q: I am an executive head teacher in a large MAT. I have exceeded my lifetime allowance and need to decide on an appropriate plan to perhaps consider retirement at the age of 56. Is it possible to have a meeting with an adviser, experienced in these areas, to help me plan over the next few years and also to mitigate the tax issues related to exceeding the lifetime allowance?

A: While ASCL can give generic advice on pensions and tax liabilities, we are not indemnified to offer specific financial advice. We have a Guidance Paper on Pensions and Tax Liability (www.ascl.org.uk/guidancepension) and our Pensions Specialist Stephen Casey can also give further assistance on understanding this if needed. There are calculators on the Teachers’ Pensions website (www.teacherspensions.co.uk) that can help you to work this out. Members can also use the calculators to find out approximately what their pension will be if they retire at a particular age, in this case at 56. Furthermore, you can call the ASCL Hotline (0116 299 1122) where we will be happy to talk through the benefits of retiring early, taking phased retirement or continuing in employment while either paying into the Teachers’ Pension Scheme or Local Government Pension Scheme, or withdrawing from them. We will not, however, be able to advise specifically on which is best for an individual. For advice about additional voluntary contributions (AVCs), you will need to seek advice from a financial adviser.

If you are an ASCL member and you need generic pensions advice, you can call our Hotline on 0116 299 1122. If you need financial advice, you should consult a financial adviser (Lighthouse Financial Advice is ASCL’s Premier Partner for professional financial advice – call 08000 85 85 90 or email appointments@lighthousefa.co.uk to arrange a complimentary, no obligation, appointment with one of its professional financial advisers) and if you need tax advice, please consult a tax adviser (Simplitax is ASCL’s preferred supplier for tax advice – call Simplitax on 01633 265647 or email enquiries@simplitax.com).

Contact the Hotline

ASCL members concerned about leadership issues should call the Hotline on 0116 299 1122 or email hotline@ascl.org.uk

Rachel Bertenshaw is ASCL Hotline Leader