News

ECSG updates from the frontline: February 2021

10 February 2021

Prospect negotiators for the Education and Children’s Services Group give their updates from the last few months.

Daniel Maney – Wales

There is very little case work around Wales right now and most of the union work has been surrounding the return of schools, which is currently being discussed between all the education unions and the various Welsh government departments and local bodies.

Exams for this summer have been cancelled and it has been confirmed that learners undertaking GCSE, AS and A Levels approved by Qualifications Wales will have their qualifications awarded through a Centre-Determined Grade model. This means that grades will be determined by their school or college based on an assessment of the learner’s work.

The children commissioner is conducting a survey into how young people have been effected during the pandemic, this closes on the 29th of January and can be accessed here.

We are now beginning to see redundancy consultations in some education bodies here in Wales, and we are supporting those members as best we can. Only one formal consultation has commenced but we have been told that due to withdrawals of grants we can expect more over the coming months.

Stuart Anderson – Scotland, North and Midlands

The first part of 2021 follows 2020 in being quiet regarding industrial relations issues for ECS members in my area of responsibility.

There appears to be a continued recognition from Local Authority employers that our members are vital in supporting schools with the COVID-19 response. Given the centrality of our members, and the services in which they work to the response of the pandemic, redundancy and other service redesigns have remained largely off the agenda.

Workload continues to be high and members are taking on responsibilities outside of their normal role. As a group of highly skilled and appropriately graded staff, our members have been called to support schools, settings and other departments with interpreting, explaining and taking action on rapidly changing guidance from central government.

There is a concern that these changes to working practices and the shift to pandemic response leaves our members vulnerable to the argument that once the pandemic response is over, their core roles are seen as dispensable.

Many of the services in which our members work relies, partly or totally, on trading their services for their budgets. Little traded work was delivered after March 2020 as priorities changed.  However, as far as I am aware payments were still made.  It remains to be seen how this will develop in 2021 but this is clearly an area of concern.

While there has been little in terms of structural change, I have noted a number appointments at director and deputy director level. This could mean structural change in the near future as those appointees seek to model the teams of which they have just taken leadership.

Claire Dent – London, South East and South

All areas of education continue to be affected by the current COVID-19 crisis. With schools now closed for the foreseeable future our members are being affected by the limited services they are able to deliver online.

This is particularly impacting on Music Services throughout my area. Fortunately I am not aware of any redundancies but some staff have been furloughed and only been offered 80% salary if they are actually employed.

For those who work on variable hours contracts only Hertfordshire had initially guaranteed 100% of their normal income, reducing to 80% from September last year and 60% from January 2021 until February half-term. After that date this support will cease despite there being no sign that teaching will return to normal in this area.

Hertfordshire

A new invigorated Council Trade Union Engagement group is being implemented and I have been in discussions around the purpose of this group and how Prospect can be involved.

The initial meeting is due at the end of February and the senior policy holders within the Council will be involved. It is hoped that this will invigorate consultation between the recognised unions and management and ensure continued partnership working.

Medway

The Council is renaming their Early Help service, re-branding it Family Solutions. There will also be structural changes, introducing varying different roles that will encourage career progression. It will also align the service to be more accessible to clients through flexible working patterns for staff.

No response was received from members currently regarding these changes but the LA are consulting fully with all unions.

Croydon

I am pleased to report that Croydon have fully implemented the Soulbury pay award and agreed their own NJC pay award in line with this i.e. 2.75%.

Kent

I have been consulted and fully informed of changes affecting staff within this LA. Fortunately these restructures, which are limited, have not directly affected Prospect members at this time.

Personal cases

I have no personal cases currently with ECS, a good sign I feel that members have no specific concerns.

Recruitment

Again I’m afraid there has been very limited opportunity to engage with members and despite a myriad of resources being offered centrally to engage with members there does not appear to be a high take up of this from ECS members.

Chris Manning – South and South West

The amount of Prospect involvement across the ECS Group in the South and South West regions continues to be fairly low; a situation exacerbated by the current COVID crisis. However, I continue to support ECS Group members with individual and collective cases involving various workplace issues.

Since the last report a new restructure has started within Hampshire County Council; this time in the Mathematics Team. Affected members have made contact with Prospect and the work to assist them is ongoing.

Also during that time I have provided individual support to nine ECS Group members. Four of the cases have concerned restructure/redundancy issues; two were grievance cases; one regarding a request for flexible working and two cases where the member needed to defend a complaint made against them during the course of their work.

The latter cases come along from time to time because of the nature of the work undertaken by ECS Group members. Please remember that if you do find yourself in the position of having to defend yourself against a complaint made by a Head Teacher, Governors or other external stakeholders you should take advantage of your Prospect membership and allow us to help you with your case.

In November we were contacted by a member of a teaching union who really felt that she and her colleagues were in the wrong union. They had moved into School Improvement work but had stayed with their teaching union.

A number of School Improvement professionals, having come from a teaching background, choose to remain in their old teaching union. In cases where complaints are made by external stakeholders, especially teaching staff, there could end up being a real conflict of interest if both parties are in the same union. So it is important that school improvement staff are members of Prospect; the truly independent union that is best placed to support our members without any conflicts of interest.

If you are concerned that colleagues of yours are in the wrong union (or none) and would be better served by joining Prospect, please suggest to them that they email wakefield@prospect.org.uk for further information about the services we provide.

Angela Moffatt – Northern Ireland

Education Authority Northern Ireland

Your workplace representative is:

  • Glenn Walsh

Peter McAlister has stood down as a rep for EANI, after a long and committed time of service in this role.  We’re immensely grateful to Peter for all of his work – and of course his kindness, patience and passion for the role.  He will be very missed indeed.

Collective issues and engagement with management

A heavy schedule of meetings with EANI has continued including HR, JNC, Policy development, NJC grading and the Joint Directorate Forum meetings for Education, CYPS, Finance/ICT, Ops & Estates.  There have also been additional meetings focusing on COVID related issues.

Group and individual member cases

We remain involved in numerous member cases both on a group and individual level.  If you have any issues, early intervention is best – so please don’t wait if you have concerns or questions.  You can contact Glenn Walsh as your rep, or you can contact the NI office via ni@prospect.org.uk

 


Education and children's services

Prospect represents nearly 3,000 professionals in education, children's services, early years, commissioning and children's social care.