News

ECSG updates from the frontline: July 2021

19 July 2021

Prospect’s full-time officers for the Education and Children’s Services Group give their updates from the last few months.

Daniel Maney – Wales

Jeremy Miles has been appointed the new minister for education taking over form Kirsty Williams following May’s Welsh elections. He has written to all headteachers confirming that by September:

  • Face coverings will no longer be routinely recommended in classrooms.
  • Contact groups will no longer be required for school pupils or full-time learners in colleges. The TTP system will be used to identify close contacts of learners who have tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Normal session times will resume.

Also, the Welsh Government has published its new five-year Work Programme for Cymraeg 2050, the national strategy to reach 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Estyn have extended the suspension of their core inspection programme for schools and Pupil Referral Units into the autumn term.

In terms of case work, it has been very light but we did have a query from a local council regarding SPA (Structured Professional Assessment) points and that their interpretation was that additional SPA points were not paid until the individual’s increment were due. This was challenged as that is not how it works in England, or how it is written down in the Soulbury rules.

This was checked by my colleague Steve Thomas at the Soulbury Committee and they also confirmed that SPA payments should not be delayed. This was fed back to the council concerned, who accepted this and the SAP payments are now in the process of being implemented forthwith.

Stuart Anderson – Scotland, North and Midlands

Recent months have seen an increase in comments and concerns from members around workload, with rapidly emerging government guidance requiring attention. There has also been a marked increase in home education and an increased demand on our members who work in that area.

The year has remained quiet on industrial relations and collective issues, with the exceptions noted in my previous updates and a small number of ongoing restructures, such as Education Safeguarding at Bradford MDC. I have noticed an increase in the number of Primary School restructures with potential redundancies from September.

While these restructures have not directly impacted our members employment, it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes there are to come in the way primary schools are supported by local authority staff in the new academic year.

Another issue of interest will be now the newly attached conditions to the School Improvement Monitoring and Brokering Grant, Prospect responded to the consultation regarding attaching conditions on behalf of members.  I would be very interested to hear if and how the new grant conditions impact on the way school improvement is delivered in the coming year.

Claire Dent – London, South East, South West and South

As Education Services try to move back to what would be considered as normal I have been involved in discussions with various Authorities about office usage and continuing to keep staff safe at work.

I have recently taken over responsibility for various areas from my colleague and my report focuses in the main on these.

Bristol

Children and Families:  There is a £4.4 million overspend reported in this area but if you take into account the money that has been spent on Covid-related activity then it indicates an underspend, which is a positive message.

Dorset

I met with the Corporate Director for HR&OD, the Service Manager for HR Operations, and the HR Business Partner for Children Services as an introduction for me to this area. They appeared very friendly and we had a constructive discussion about the issues facing the Council. They welcomed the opportunity to work with Prospect and will facilitate recruitment messages being shared with staff through their various communication channels.

Oxford

I have yet to make contact or attend any meeting here but my intention is to continue to build a positive relationship with them, as with all the Local Authorities I cover. I am receiving information on meetings and this will help me keep abreast of any issues.

Plymouth

There was a recent proposal submitted to unions concerning the re-alignment of two areas within Education Partnership Service (EPS). This has been in response to the planned departure of the current Head of Virtual Schools and the difficulties in recruiting the vacant Head of School Improvement.

The proposals will result in a net saving of £67,016 for the EPS. It is hoped that these savings will be used to deliver a more flexible approach to School Improvement, as by bringing the two teams together there will be a greater focus on school improvement for all children.

Hampshire

I have been involved in in-depth discussions around the decrease in the Homeworking Allowance for staff. These are people that are classified as contractual home workers, as opposed to staff that have just been working from home during the pandemic.

The majority of the 250+ staff potentially affected by this change work in Children Services so Prospect is really concerned about how this could impact on our members.

All of the joint unions have rejected the original proposal and subsequently rejected an improved offer of a one off payment representing 12 months difference in the rate. We await a further proposal and it is hoped we can reach an agreement by 23 July.

Herts for Learning (HfL)

The joint unions submitted a joint pay claim earlier this year of 3% which we felt was a fair claim given the financial figures available to us from March 2020. Unsurprisingly, the current unaudited figures presented to us were not as positive as those we had relied on. Therefore the 3% claim was rejected as unaffordable given the pressures Covid has presented to the organisation.

Management initially suggested a 0% pay claim with an offer of a possible 3% bonus offered to all staff. This was rejected by the joint unions.

Following further discussion and after consulting our membership the joint unions accepted a COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) of 0.5% and a Bonus Award for 2021 of 5%.

Personal cases

I have several cases where, due to changes in job descriptions brought about by a restructure, members have felt that the job demand is too great and they have taken the decision to accept redundancy. These are obviously personal decisions but it does suggest a pattern where the expectation around workload and what one person can achieve is unrealistic in some authorities.

Recruitment

There has been limited opportunities to engage with potential members across ECS. However I am hopeful that working with colleagues, especially around digital organising we can increase Prospect’s visibility in the areas I cover.

Angela Moffatt – Northern Ireland

Education Authority Northern Ireland

Structured Professional Assessment (SPA) Points Update

We’ve been dealing with the issue of SPA points payments for our members, and as a result of our efforts we’ve highlighted the under or non-payment of monies to our members and a significant number of other staff including members of other unions.

It has taken quite a bit of concerted effort by representative Glenn Walsh and the NI Full Time Officer up to Joint Negotiating Committee level, but we have now successfully managed to work with management to identify and begin correcting the situation. This has been a great result for members.

We’ve also attended Directorate meetings, and JNC meetings and we have represented members across a range of other issues – including health & safety concerns, grading, Covid-19 arrangements and moving towards a pilot National Joint Council grading scheme.


Education and children's services

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