June 2018

The know zone

  • Blade runners
    A helicopter landing on the playing field is a prime learning opportunity but is mixing whirring rotors with a swarm of students really a good idea? More
  • Reducing workload
    Workload in the education profession is one of the factors that must be addressed to help retain our staff and ensure we have a happy, and health workforce. So, what are the causes of workload? What can be done to reduce it? Are you taking any steps to help reduce the workload of your staff? Here, ASCL members share their views. 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
  • Unfair shares
    Education has some of the worst instances of a gender pay gap - particularly among leaders - but the picture is less clear-cut than the figures suggest. Sara Ford unpicks the reasons. More
  • Setting the standard
    Kevin Gilmartin takes a look at the new apprenticeship standards and the newly formed body responsible for their development. More
  • Be prepared
    2018 is the most significant year of GCSE reform, with 17 new GCSEs being awarded for the first time. Suzanne O'Farrell looks at lessons learned from 2017 and answers key questions about this year's reforms. More
  • Pension myth
    Stephen Casey seeks to clarify a common misunderstanding by members about the teachers' pensions final salary scheme and the career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme. More
Bookmark and Share

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

Fit note

Q: I’m a deputy head and I’ve been signed off from work following an operation. I’ve been given a fit note for 12 weeks, stating I am unable to work. I’m getting 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.

Lifetime allowance

Q: I’m an executive headteacher in a large MAT. I’ve exceeded my pension 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 who can help me plan 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, 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.) 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