When handling problems of any sort, it is wise to have a general strategy so that you can be systematic in your approach. We favour the 'PIPO' approach because it is easy to remember and simple to implement. PIPO stands for PROBLEM, INFORMATION, PLAN and ORGANISE.


  • What are the facts?

  • What do those involved say?

  • Is it a genuine problem?

  • Is it an individual or collective problem?

  • Can the problem be settled at school level?

The first stage is to establish the nature of the problem or problems. Unless you have a very clear idea of what the problem is, you cannot begin to solve it. Sometimes the problem is not what it seems to be at first sight, nor even the problem that the member perceives it to be. Above are listed some of the questions to ask to pin down the problem or problems.

Firstly, of course, you must be clear about the facts of the case. Some of these will be provided to you by the member, but bear in mind that the member may be able to give you only one side of the story and it may be necessary to clarify other facts. This may involve you speaking to other people and you need to handle such situations with care. Then you have to decide whether it is a genuine problem that the Union ought to be dealing with.

It is not always necessarily the case that a member’s sense of grievance has a just cause. Sometimes the problem may lie outside the area of pay and conditions of service and you may have to direct the member elsewhere for assistance. Always be prepared to take advice from your Local Association Secretary if you are in doubt.


  • Is the problem covered by the Blue Book/Burgundy Book?

  • Are there any national/local/school agreements?

  • What is ‘custom and practice’?

  • Are there any legal rights involved?

  • Are Union policies relevant?

  • Do I need help?

Having identified the nature of the problem, the next step is to gather the information needed to help you resolve it. If the problem relates to pay or conditions of service, you may need to consult the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD or Blue Book) or the Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales (Burgundy Book). (These are summarised in your NASUWT Representatives’ Handbook.)

You may also need to consult the contracts of the particular educational establishment. Please note that some academies and independent schools may not have signed up to the STPCD. Agreements at national, local or school level may be important and you need to have access to these. If the problem relates to changes in pay or conditions of service, then the status quo should be maintained pending a resolution.

You may need to seek legal advice through the Union or to find out whether any Union policies cover the area of dispute.

Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help if the problem is too difficult for you to resolve. It is better to ask for help sooner rather than later from your Local Association Secretary or Regional/National Centre.


  • What do I want to achieve?

  • How should I approach the solution?

  • What is the attitude of the members?

  • What are the Union’s aims?

  • What arguments and pressure can I bring to bear?

Once you understand the problem clearly and have gathered the necessary information, the next stage is to decide how you will go about seeking a solution.

The questions above cover some of the factors to be borne in mind when coming to that decision.

When you meet the headteacher/principal (the usual point in a school where problems can be resolved), you will be well prepared and this should give you confidence.


  • Is this a collective issue?

  • Is it deeply and widely felt by the members?

  • Is it an issue in which we can involve everyone in winning?

  • Will it unite members and non-members?

  • Is the issue winnable, or partly winnable?

  • Will it result in a visible improvement?

  • Will it give members a sense of their own strength?

  • Will it raise the profile of the Union?

  • Will it build Union solidarity?

We can EDUCATE each other through face-to-face communication, workplace meetings, newsletters and other methods about the issue that confronts us and what we can do about it together.

When members understand the issues, we can ask them to become involved, to take collective ACTION to win changes at work, to make improvements for all.

This whole process allows us to ORGANISE the Union (the members) and set in place structures and networks through which activists can effectively communicate and build the Union.

Recording information in a PIPO way should assist you to tackle problems in a systematic and organised way.