Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by Unison (E 51)

1. UNISON is the leading public sector union representing over 1.3 million members. These include 350,000 learning support, administrative, technical and professional staff working in education. Part-time women in the local economy, often on low or unequal pay, dominate this workforce. UNISON has led on reform and modernisation of pay and grading systems with employers in colleges and universities and is the majority union on the School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB) which was empowered to deliver on a similar agenda in the school sector.

2. Summary

UNISON, with its comprehensive coverage across education, has an interest in every aspect of the Education Bill 2011. Its evidence will however focus on its impact on school support staff: primarily through the abolition of the SSSNB, but also workforce training and anonymity for those facing accusations from pupils (Part 3). There will be comment on the increase in the Secretary of State for Education’s powers and the diminished role of local authorities. UNISON believes that this shift of power will impact on learners, parents and staff and will effectively sever schools from their communities. The exclusion of schools and colleges from local children’s services (Part 5) will reinforce the policy of estrangement, in the name of institutional independence. UNISON has other concerns about the transfer process of staff to academies (Part 6) and the restriction of apprenticeships and adult learning entitlements (Part 7).

3. The SSSNB for England

Clause 18 of the bill abolishes the SSSNB established under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. It had become a statutory body with a constitution, employer (including voluntary-aided, foundation and trust school employers) and trade union sides and an independent chair, working to a government remit. It had been some years in development and was established to design a national framework of pay and conditions for support staff in maintained schools in England combining ‘national consistency and local flexibility’. A comprehensive report on the work of the SSSNB, including background information on school support staff, was produced by the Office of Manpower Economics, extracts of which appear in an annex to this evidence.

4. Separate negotiating machinery for support staff derived initially from the 2003 Workforce Agreement between government, employers and school workforce unions The SSSNB was to reform and modernise pay and conditions for school support staff which had not kept pace with the evolution of their professional roles in and out of the classroom. These had changed over the years because of local management, delegated budgets and other initiatives, like extended schools, which required school-based business management and a wider range of skills and responsibilities for support staff. Workforce reform had also led to a significant increase in support staff activity in the classroom, typified by the development of higher level teaching assistants.

5. Reform has been supported by teachers, head teachers, governing bodies and parents aware of the value and contribution that support staff make to improving standards and the learning environment in schools. Ofsted’s fifth report evaluating the impact of school workforce reform (2010) found that 80% of schools visited provided evidence that the wider workforce had contributed to improved learning outcomes. It quoted a head teacher (p.8) who ascribed the dramatic improvement in school standards and achievement (up 30% into the top 8% of improved schools) to the effective deployment of the wider workforce and their increased status and recognition. Ofsted also identified a number of areas where it had concerns about the wider workforce and particularly how effectively they were being managed and developed. The report states that, "members of the wider workforce and their managers were confused and uncertain about pay and conditions attached to the increasingly diverse roles that have developed as a result of workforce reform." (p.5) Ofsted recommended that government "provide guidance on appropriate levels of pay and conditions for the increasingly diverse roles that have been introduced as a result of workforce reform." (p.6).This was the intended outcome of SSSNB work.

6. SSSNB early achievement and unfinished business

The SSSNB identified over 100 support staff roles with profiles that schools could use as benchmarks to assess their own jobs. A school-based job evaluation scheme had been designed and a pay and conditions model was under discussion, including a working time formulation that would help schools arrive at appropriate pay levels, fairly and consistently. The job profiles had reached the testing- in- schools stage, a ‘handbook’ of minimum conditions of service was a work in progress and employers and unions were moving towards an agreed expression of working time. The SSSNB agreement should have been finalised by January 2011 for phased application from April 2011. It would have recommended a national framework and provided guidance to schools without prescription. It would have reduced the burden on self-governing schools of having to create their own job descriptions and pay structures and would have significantly reduced the exposure of schools and local authorities to future equal pay claims.

7. The government has identified the value of pay review bodies, including those for teachers and head teachers. They provide consistency and stability in self-managed environments, the ability to address performance issues through agreed processes and the promotion of professionalism and professionalisation in pursuit of improved learning outcomes. Following a review of the future policy direction for determining school support staff pay and conditions, the government concluded that the SSSNB did not fit well with its priorities for greater deregulation of the pay and conditions arrangements for the school workforce. It said that pay and conditions should continue to be determined locally, although this means primarily by local authorities rather than schools. In the abolition of the SSSNB, the government has made school support staff, who are predominantly women working in the local economy, an exception.

8. Status Quo?

Around two thirds of school support staff are employed on pay and conditions which are agreed in the Local Government National Joint Council (NJC). Many other voluntary-aided, foundation and trust schools follow their lead. Most local authorities sign up to a national set of minimum conditions (the ‘Green Book’) although their pay structures vary considerably. The conditions that apply to the whole local government workforce do not relate to the specific nature of the wider school workforce or school environment. In the absence of the SSSNB, most schools will continue to inherit their support staff terms of employment from their local authority. They will be restricted from aligning their support staff employment policies with the needs of the school. There is also a legacy of equal pay liability with around 35% of local authorities with schools without pay reviews and facing an equal pay bill of at least £214 million for their school support staff.

In addition last year the chancellor George Osborne announced a two year pay freeze in the public sector but promised that all staff earning less than £21000 would receive at least £250 in each year. The Secretary of State Michael Gove has submitted evidence to the Teachers Pay Review body recommending that this should be paid to any teachers earning under this threshold but says he has no way of delivering this to school support staff. Whilst we may not accept this argument (Secretaries of State have power to direct schools ) it does highlight a potential problem that could have been resolved by the SSSNB.

9. UNISON believes that the status quo for pay and conditions for school support staff is not an option. The government has suggested that unions and employers could finish the SSSNB work on a voluntary basis but local authorities and other employers may be reluctant to commit the necessary resources to school support staff at this time with the work in progress having been derailed. It is beyond the resources of most individual schools to develop and collectively bargain pay structures and job evaluation processes that will recruit and retain professional staff. For this reason, academy chains, a significant number of local authorities and sixth form college employers have been waiting in the wings to draw on the SSSNB job profiles and evaluation system. Local authorities will continue to be vulnerable to equal pay challenges. School support staff will feel that the long awaited acknowledgment of their professional contribution and fair and consistent reward has been taken from them. UNISON firmly believes that the continuation of the work of the SSSNB is essential to the school sector.


10. Training the school workforce

Clause 14 of the bill also abolishes the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) and clause 15 transfers its functions to the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers. They will have the power to fund training for teachers and other members of the school workforce, including continuing professional development. UNISON is concerned that support staff training will not be adequately resourced as the TDA budget cut in 2010 fell almost entirely upon their programmes. There is little indication, given the proposed abolition of the SSSNB, that the government has as yet set sufficient value on the role of support staff in schools.

11. Restrictions on reporting alleged offences by teachers

Clause 13 of the bill offers anonymity to teachers facing allegations from pupils. UNISON fails to understand why this provision does not apply to all school staff, given that its members are equally vulnerable to accusation.

12. Role of local authorities

Careers education and guidance

The Secretary of State’s power to direct local authorities in the exercise of their careers functions is removed. The duty on schools and other educational institutions under section 73 of the Education and Skills Act (ESA) 2008 to admit persons involved in education and training support services (for example, Connexions personal advisers) is omitted. A new section is inserted into the EA 1997 requiring maintained schools and pupil referral units in England to secure independent careers guidance to pupils in the year in which they are 14 until the end of compulsory schooling. It must be impartial and independent (not school staff) and include information on all 16 to 18 education or training options, including apprenticeships. UNISON welcomes the new requirement to use an independent career guidance service but would prefer a reference to qualified, career professionals. It is also unsure of the possible mechanisms for ensuring that individual schools comply with this provision adequately given the removal of the role of the local authority. Procuring a career service, school by school, will be a new burden on individual institutions and will no doubt carry an additional price-tag.

13. Duties to co-operate with the local authorities

Section 10 of the CA 2004 is amended to remove schools and colleges in England from the list of relevant partners involved in the well-being of children and young people. School forums and governing bodies will no longer be required to have regard to their local children’s trust board’s children and young people’s plan. Schools will no longer have a duty to publish a school profile and local authorities will no longer be required to appoint a school improvement partner for each school they maintain or establish an admissions forum for their area in England. The power of the school adjudicator is restricted and local authorities will no longer be required to provide them with admissions reports. The removal of schools and colleges from the list of relevant partners in children and young people’s well-being drives a wedge between them and other local services and negates the purpose of Every Child Matters which was intended to remedy the failure of services to work together. The role of local authorities in education is weakened and leaves it with little incentive to develop policies, for example, on administering medicines and medical support in schools. There is crossover here with the Health and Social Care Bill to which we are also responding. The demise of local authority responsibility towards schools has implications for school leadership, for example, school business managers and directors.

14. New schools

A new section is inserted into the Education and Inspections Act (EIA) 2006 to place a duty on local authorities to seek proposals for the establishment of an academy where they believe that a new school is needed. The conditions and process for opening new schools is set out, including that academy proposals will no longer go to the local authority but directly to the Secretary of State. UNISON is concerned that these clauses increase central government control over the establishment of new schools. They increase the pressure to open academies and weaken the local authority’s ability to plan an education strategy in its area.

15. Governing bodies in England

The number of required categories of governor is reduced and seeks to exclude staff, local authority and community governors. The local authority governor role links individual schools with their local authority providing a level of cohesion. UNISON believes that this clause of the bill diminishes the democratic nature of governance, denies the central role of staff and distances schools from their communities.

16. Schools causing concern

Part 4 of the EIA 2006 which sets out the legal framework for maintained schools causing concern in England is amended to extend the powers of the Secretary of State. He will be able to close a school which has failed to comply with performance standards or a safety warning notice or has been identified by Ofsted as requiring significant improvement. The Secretary of State can also direct the local authority to issue a warning notice in specified terms. UNISON is concerned that centralised approaches to school improvement will fail to understand local circumstances and will by-pass local democracy.

17. Complaints: repeal of power to complain to Local Commissioner

Clause 44 in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act (ASCLA) 2009 is repealed so that the Local Government Ombudsman in England will no longer hear complaints from parents and pupils about maintained schools. Hearing of complaints will be the responsibility of the Secretary of State. These measures build upon the central powers that the Secretary of State is taking to himself and deny community-based redress to complaint.

18. The transfer of staff to academies

The ‘property transfer scheme’ under the Academies Act 2010 is to be renamed the ‘transfer scheme’ and will cover staff as well as the property rights and liabilities of local authorities and governing bodies. UNISON is anxious to know what the intentions of this clause are and whether it will impinge upon the rights of school staff under the European Acquired Rights Directive.

19. Apprenticeships and adult learning

The duty under the ASCLA 2009 to secure an apprenticeship place for all suitably qualified young people in particular groups is repealed. New section 83b limits the scope of the ‘apprenticeship offer’. It specifies that the duty to fund apprenticeship training applies to one completed apprenticeship at each apprenticeship level. There are regulation-making powers to specify eligibility for an apprenticeship at the behest of the Secretary of State who can also suspend the offer in relation to a specified skill, trade or occupation. The entitlement to fee remission on the first full vocational qualification at level 2 and specified qualification at level 3 are restricted to those aged 19 to 24. The changes withdraw certainty of the apprenticeship offer and limit it. An individual could not access funding for an apprenticeship if they already held an apprenticeship certificate at that level. This will have an impact on those individuals wishing to retrain in a bid to find employment in a new area.

20. The restriction on adult ‘learner entitlements’ to 19 to 24 year olds will impact on a wide range of those in need of training and will deepen the skills deficit in England.

Coupled with this, the government aims to replace public funding with a loans system that will see those adult learners not covered by the proposed restricted fee remission schemes having to take on a debt (this is not in the Bill but has been announced separately for introduction in 2013). UNISON strongly believes that the full adult entitlements must be retained. It would be very damaging for the long-term economic prospects of the nation and for social cohesion if the entitlements were cut. UK Commission for Employment and Skills is already forecasting that the UK will be a long way behind our target to train at least 90% of the workforce to Level 2 by 2020. Now would be precisely the wrong time to cut the adult learner entitlements.


Annex

School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB)

Annual Report 2009-2010 by the Office of Manpower Economics

6 August 2010

Summary 

· This is the first annual report of the School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB) covering the calendar year since SSSNB was established on 7 July 2009.

· The statutory SSSNB was established under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 effective from 12 January 2010.

· The SSSNB operates in accordance with constitutional arrangements made by the Secretary of State.

· SSSNB has agreed procedural arrangements and has received a referral letter from the previous Secretary of State (July 2009).

· SSSNB timescales were extended to allow submission of agreements by 1 April 2011.

· Work on a core contract of employment for school support staff has been extended to the production of a Support Staff Terms and Conditions Handbook.

· The Sides continue to negotiate a methodology to define the working year for support staff.

· With consultancy support, SSSNB has produced:

o 100 draft national role profiles to support the agreed job matching process;

o A bespoke job evaluation scheme;

o A methodology and handbook to test the matching process in local authorities and schools;

o An implementation plan through to April 2012.

· The Sides continue to negotiate on options for a new pay and grading structure.

· Following the 6 May 2010 general election, on the advice of the Department for Education, SSSNB activity was put on hold while the government considered its policy for school support staff.

2. Setting up the body 

Background

2.1 Separate negotiating machinery for school support staff derived initially from the 2003 Workforce Agreement [1] between Government, employers and school workforce unions. The agreement sought to tackle teachers’ workload and recognised the contribution the roles of support staff could make to the achievement of this objective. New negotiating machinery on a national framework was trailed in the 2005 Education White Paper [2] . In June 2006, the Support Staff Working Group (a sub-group of the Workforce Agreement Monitoring Group comprising employers, unions, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Training and Development Agency) was tasked by the then Minister of State for Schools to undertake detailed work on models for new negotiating machinery, a common contract of employment, standardised job descriptions and a method of conversion to salaries, and improved career progression.

2.2 In September 2007, the SSSNB was formally announced and the independent chair, Philip Ashmore, appointed in September 2008. The then Secretary of State confirmed SSSNB would be set up to negotiate pay and conditions of support staff in maintained schools (in England) and it would "give a bigger voice to more than 300,000 school support staff". The national framework would "still allow employers sufficient flexibility to meet local needs".

2.3 In April 2009, the then Secretary of State invited nominations for membership of the SSSNB from employers (Local Government Association Foundation and Aided Schools National Association, Church of England and the Catholic Education Service) and unions (Unison, GMB and Unite the Union). DCSF (since May 2010 – the Department for Education) officials in their capacity of representing the Secretary of State and the Training and Development Agency are non-voting members. All invitees accepted membership of the body. SSSNB’s constitution was finalised in June 2009 and the first matters referred to it by the Secretary of State in July 2009.

Non-statutory body 

2.4 Established in July 2009 using the Secretary of State’s prerogative powers, the SSSNB functioned as a non-statutory "shadow" advisory non-departmental public body until it received statutory status in January 2010. In its operation the non-statutory body was identical to the statutory body.

Constitution and referral letter 

2.5 SSSNB’s constitution was finalised in June 2009. The constitution covers SSSNB’s functions, scope, membership, independent chair, independent secretariat, fees and expenses, annual reports and specified procedural arrangements. It also provides for SSSNB to determine its own additional procedural arrangements.

2.6 SSSNB‘s negotiations derive from the matters in the referral letter from the previous Secretary of State. This letter, dated 29 July 2009, set out specific requirements for the body which focused on reaching agreements on the following matters for submission to the Secretary of State by 28 May 2010:

· Producing a core contract of employment to cover remuneration, duties and working time;

· Designing national job profiles to cover core support staff roles;

· Developing and producing a method for converting those job roles profiles into a salary structure; and

· Devising a strategy to effectively implement the national pay and conditions’ framework in all schools maintained by local authorities in England including managing both transition and steady state.

2.7 The referral letter also asked the body to have regard to 11 factors in considering the matters for agreement. The full letter is reproduced at Annex B and a summary of progress against the matters referred can be found in Section 4 of this report.

Statutory body 

2.8 SSSNB was established as a statutory body under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act which received Royal Assent on 12 November 2009. The relevant provisions of the Act [1] – Part 10 Chapter 4 and Schedule 15 – came into effect on 12 January 2010.

2.9 Sections 227-241 of the Act sets out SSSNB’s remit, how the Secretary of State can refer to SSSNB matters within that remit and factors for it to "have regard to". These sections also cover how SSSNB should either submit any agreement to the Secretary of State or notify the Secretary of State of a failure to do so (and how SSSNB might consider matters not referred to it by the Secretary of State).

2.10 The options available to the Secretary of State on submission of an SSSNB agreement are set out from Section 229 onwards. These include: making an order ratifying the agreement; referring it back to SSSNB for reconsideration; making an order requiring specified persons to "have regard to" the agreement; or making an order on a matter to which an agreement relates otherwise than in the terms of the SSSNB agreement.

2.11 Section 240 provides a definition of school support staff and section 241 a list of the types of maintained schools that SSSNB covers. Schedule 15 of the Act covers the SSSNB constitution, membership, proceedings, administrative support, annual reports, and fees and expenses.

Outputs and information supplied 

3.10 SSSNB member organisations and the secretariat have produced the following information and papers to support SSSNB’s business in 2009-10:

· Additional procedural arrangements for the Full SSSNB and terms of reference for the Executive and Working Groups;

· 4 Information Packs – providing data on workforce, schools, support staff pay, pay bill and research;

· Employers’ Side and TU Side papers on "national consistency and local flexibility";

· DCSF papers on SSSNB’s remit;

· Detailed papers on the Sides’ positions on the working year;

· Detailed papers on clauses under the core contract and 6 draft versions of the core contract;

· 5 drafts of the Terms and Conditions Handbook;

· 2 business cases to DCSF for consultancy support;

· Documentation to support the procurement of external consultancy (e.g. specification, evaluation criteria and evaluation assessments);

· Draft sets of 100 support staff role profiles;

· A bespoke job evaluation scheme (with factors, levels and accompanying definitions);

· A job matching and evaluation handbook;

· A framework for testing role profiles and the matching process in local authorities and schools;

· An implementation plan through to April 2012 (including provisional implementation costs);

· A communications strategy and plan for 2010-11;

· Website pages and background documentation; and

· A description of SSSNB information requirements.

4. Matters referred by the former secretary of State

Activity under each matter referred

4.1 The following summarises SSSNB’s progress against each of the four matters referred for agreement.

Referral letter matters

Production of a core letter of employment

4.2 SSSNB’s Working Group initially worked during the latter half of 2009 on the detail of a core contract. Since November 2009, this work has been extended to the presentation of agreements within a Support Staff Terms and Conditions Handbook to include the provisions required for contracts of employment. The Working Group has started detailed discussions on the wording of terms and conditions (including a methodology to define the working year) drawing on the earlier core contract work. This is scheduled for conclusion by autumn 2010. The detailed discussions are closely linked to work clarifying SSSNB’s remit and therefore the nature and presentation of the handbook.

National role profiles 

4.3 SSSNB agreed that a job-matching approach should be taken requiring the production of national role profiles. Drawing on earlier DCSF research and example profiles from a range of sources, SSSNB, with consultancy support, has finalised around 100 draft national profiles for common support staff roles. These fall into five job families: teaching and learning support; administrative and management; facilities; specialist and technical; and pupil support and welfare. The profiles include key and additional duties to accommodate variations (e.g. in responsibility for staff) and thereby maximise the numbers to be matched. These profiles were scheduled to be tested in local authorities and schools in summer 2010 including the testing of specific areas for individual profiles identified by the Working Group. Alongside testing, the national profiles were to be shared with interested organisations. The testing schedule was put on hold in June 2010.

Method to convert profiles into a salary structure 

4.4 SSSNB agreed the principle of a bespoke job evaluation scheme to reflect the nature of the support staff workforce. The scheme was modified from earlier DCSF research with SSSNB further developing the factors, levels and definitions. The scheme underpinned the matching process by scoring national role profiles (see above) but allowed for individual evaluations for non-matching roles. SSSNB’s Working Group, with consultancy support, assessed and scored the role profiles against the scheme. The testing phase with local authorities and schools was designed to focus on effectiveness of the matching process. The Working Group has produced a testing handbook providing guidance on coverage, the matching process, and handling hybrid and multiple contracts. The Employers’ and Trade Union Sides have commenced negotiations on options for a new pay and grading structure which will draw on the outcomes of scored profiles. The structure is to be agreed by autumn 2010.

Strategy to implement the pay and conditions framework 

4.5 The Phase 1 design and development stage assessed options and risks for the testing and full implementation phases. It produced a detailed project plan from March 2010 to April 2012 which set out stage by stage requirements. The plan covered testing arrangements, highlighted the decisions needed on the implementation mechanism and required resources, and provided indicative implementation costs (based on resource costs but excluding any pay bill costs). SSSNB endorsed the plan in March 2010 subject to improved data on costs. The implementation plan was scheduled to be modified following testing results in autumn 2010.

5. Change of Government 

5.1 Following the 2010 general election, the Coalition Government published its reform agenda for schools. The Government’s priorities included giving schools greater freedoms with "outstanding" schools offered the opportunity to become Academies. On 3 June 2010, the Department for Education informed the SSSNB independent chair that Ministers were considering the future direction for school support staff pay and conditions in the context of the Government's wider reform agenda for schools. Until Ministers decided on how they wish to proceed in relation to the matters that have been referred to the SSSNB, the Department would be taking a measured approach in relation to SSSNB business. Phase 2 testing activity was also put on hold.

5.2 SSSNB member organisations expressed considerable concern over the continuing delay in government decisions which called into question whether the timescales for implementation by April 2012 could now be achieved. At the closing date of this report (6 July 2010), no news had been received on future policy direction for school support staff. The independent chair went on to write to the Secretary of State (14 July 2010) requesting a statement on the government’s intent. At the date of this report (6 August 2010) this had not been resolved.

Annex A – Background information on school support staff in England 

· In 2010, there were around 351,300 [1] full time equivalent school support staff employed in maintained schools in England – with a headcount of around 490,000 [2] in 2009.

· School support staff by occupation (full time equivalent) in 2009 numbered:

o Teaching Assistants 190,400

o Administrative Staff 72,300

o Technicians 23,800

o Other support staff 64,800.

· The average English primary school has 11 support staff and the average secondary school 40. There are 21,957 maintained schools in England.

· School support staff occupations fall in five broad job families:

o Teaching and learning support

o Pupil support and welfare

o Administrative and management

o Facilities

o Specialist and technical.

· The ASCL09 Act defines school support staff as those employed by local education authorities or governing bodies in maintained schools in England under a contract of employment to work wholly in maintained schools. The definition excludes school teachers and other staff whose contract of employment is covered by agreements of other bodies [3] .

· The school support staff pay bill was £7.9 billion in English maintained schools which was around 22 per cent of total school based gross revenue expenditure in 2008-09.

March 2011


[1] Raising Standards and Tackling Workload: a National Agreement – 15 January 2003.

[2] Higher Standards, Better Schools for All – 2005.

[1] Available at www.opsi.gov.uk.

[1] DfE Statistical First Release 11/2010 published on 26 May 2010.

[2] LGA breakdown of DCSF School Census and Annual Survey of Teachers in Service and Teacher Vacancies, January 2009.

[3] The School Support Staff Negotiating Body (Excluded Persons) Regulations 2010 (SI - 2010 No 856 ).

[3]