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NASUWT launches "Is your school breaking the law campaign?"

The Union has launched a major action and awareness raising campaign ‘Is your School Breaking the Law?’ to encourage members to ensure they are receiving their statutory entitlements on pay, workload and working hours and to take action through the Union where schools are refusing to comply.

The ‘Is your School Breaking the Law?’ campaign was launched by the NASUWT following the results of a workload audit of members in England and Wales to which 16,500 responses were received. 

The survey revealed that teachers and headteachers are being routinely denied the contractual entitlements which were introduced through the National Agreement. The contractual changes to working conditions and pay were approved and introduced by the Government, employers and workforce unions to enable teachers and headteachers to focus on their core responsibilities for teaching and learning which supports them to raise standards and pupil attainment.

Under the National Agreement:

  • teachers should not be undertaking routine administrative or clerical tasks (tasks do not have to be done on a daily basis to be classed as routine);
  • those in the leadership group, or who have leadership responsibilities, are entitled to a reasonable allocation of time within school sessions to discharge their responsibilities;
  • teachers and headteachers are entitled to a satisfactory work/life balance;
  • teachers should only rarely be covering for absent colleagues;
  • teachers should be receiving 10% of their timetable teaching time for planning, preparation and assessment
  • teachers should not be invigilating any public examinations, including GCSEs and SATs;
  • headteachers with significant teaching responsibilities are entitled to time during school sessions to undertake their headship responsibilities, in addition to PPA and leadership and management time;

In respect of pay, teachers are entitled to:

  • an annual increment for those on the mainscale M1-M6
  • pay progression after two years for teachers on the Upper Pay Spine. Pay progression is an integral part of the performance management process and must be included in the performance review;
  • applying once in any school year for assessment against the post-threshold standards once they reach M6 on the pay scale. The school cannot prevent an application for assessment. From 2009 the outcome of performance management reviews will provide the evidence for threshold assessment
  • a Teaching and Learning Responsibility Payment where they undertake additional responsibilities.

The conditions of performance management should also be being followed in all schools with an open and transparent planning meeting between the reviewer and review taking place at the beginning of the cycle where all objectives for the coming year and the evidence used to assess performance are agreed. There is a limit of three hours classroom observation during the performance management cycle, with no requirement to use any or all of the three hours. There must be a review meeting at the end of the cycle where no new evidence can be introduced and a recommendation must be given by the reviewer on pay progression, if applicable.

The NASUWT has successfully secured the agreement that from 2009 only evidence gathered through performance management will be used to support threshold progression. This is intended to simplify the process of crossing the threshold and ensure that all eligible teachers achieve pay progression.

The contractual changes are a statutory right and schools which do not abide by them are breaking the law. At the Union’s Annual Conference earlier this year, delegates instructed the NASUWT to work with the Government to enact measures to ensure all teachers and headteachers are receiving their statutory entitlements. If sufficient action is not taken, the Union has put the Government on notice that it will ballot members for possible industrial action in January 2009. Speaking at the Conference, Education Minister Ed Balls gave his support to the campaign and pledged further action to ensure the statutory provisions are being followed in every school.

The NASUWT has undertaken a wide range of activities to promote the campaign to members in schools, local authorities and policy makers in order to raise awareness and press for change. Activities so far have included:

  • a leaflet to all members at their home address setting out all the statutory provisions which teachers and headteachers are entitled to. This was accompanied by a letter explaining the purpose of the campaign and the importance of ensuring all statutory provisions are being adhered to in their school;
  • seven posters, designed to be displayed in staffrooms, highlighting each of the conditions of the national agreement have been produced and sent to school representatives;
  • all chairs of local authority scrutiny committees have been sent a letter from the Union advising them of the statutory provisions which should be in place in schools and central services in their local authority and asking them to undertake a scrutiny review of their implementation. The letter has also been copied to lead members of local authorities;
  • NASUWT school representatives have received a checklist of the provisions and have been advised to pursue compliance;
  • Local Associations have been provided with materials to support their mapping of enforcement in schools;
  • copies of the NASUWT workload audit, which examined the extent to which teachers and headteachers are receiving their statutory entitlements, has been sent to Government ministers and senior officials within local government;
  • publicity materials have been distributed to delegates at the recent conference of the National College for School Leadership;
  • an advert has been placed in the Parliamentary Monitor and House magazine to alert MPs to the campaign;
  • campaign materials have been distributed to the TUC and local councillors and MPs to support lobbying;
  • the members handbook is to be revised to highlight the entitlements which all teachers and headteachers should be receiving;
  • NQT members have been briefed on the campaign at a recent Union conference and statutory compliance will be a central theme of the series of Preparing for your First Teaching Post seminars being held in August;
  • campaign materials have been made available on the NASUWT website at www.teachersunion.org.uk.

A critical plank of the campaign involves working with the Westminster and Welsh Assembly Governments to devise further strategies to ensure compliance.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, has been appointed to a new Social Partnership Strategy Group which is seeking to identify an escalation strategy where non-compliance exists. National Executive Members have been asked for examples of statutory non-compliance to inform discussions and action by the working group.The first stage of the group’s work has been to conduct an audit of the powers that exist for local authorities and the Secretary of State to enforce compliance and then to examine whether these are sufficient.

At local level, NASUWT representatives have been advised to meet with members and colleagues to discuss the picture on statutory compliance within their local and regional areas and to publicise the campaign.

It is vital that all members ensure they are receiving their statutory entitlements and seek the assistance of the NASUWT if necessary. Ms Keates emphasised that the statutory provisions were introduced to benefit pupils as well as teachers and headteachers and that the failure to enforce them denies students their right to be taught by professionals who are given the time and space to work to the best of their abilities.

She stated: “The workload of teachers and headteachers is at a critical level. Teachers who are worn out and stressed by excessive workload and working hours cannot work effectively and are putting their health at risk.

“Employers have a duty of care for the workforce and this includes abiding by the law and ensuring all contractual entitlements are in place. The last of the contractual changes was introduced in September 2005, so schools have had plenty of time to prepare for and implement the changes, there is absolutely no excuse for failing to ensure teachers and headteachers are receiving the working conditions to which they are entitled.”

Where members are experiencing difficulties in accessing their statutory entitlements they should contact their NASUWT Local Secretary, Regional Centre or National Executive Member for advice and assistance. Contact details can be found in the NASUWT diary, on the website at www.teachersunion.org.uk or by calling 0121 453 6150.