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ECSG updates from the frontline: November 2021

15 November 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

The biggest development in Wales in the education sphere since my last report has been that the Welsh government has now published its programme for government for 2021-2026.

This can be accessed here;  In  education terms the headlines are a young person guarantee, which will guarantee people under 25 either the offer of work, education, training, or self-employment and the Welsh Government will also introduce 125,000 all age apprenticeships.

There are also commitments to increase tutoring and maintaining the additional free school meal provision recently brought in.

Also, the Welsh Parliament’s Children, Young People and Education Committee is undertaking an inquiry into the general principles of the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill. They have issued an invitation to contribute; information on how to contribute is available on the Bill consultation page. The consultation will close at 17:00 on 17 December 2021.

As a bit of background, the purpose of the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill is to establish the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research, as the independent regulatory body responsible for the funding, oversight and regulation of tertiary education and research in Wales.

Further information on the Bill can be found on the Bill’s website.

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 start of the academic year has seen a slight increase in industrial relations and collective issues, which may be the start of a return to the rapidly changing environment we saw prior to the start of the pandemic.  

There are a couple of areas that I would like to draw your attention to. In, Warwickshire, the council is moving to disestablish the Education Advisory Service and therefore remove the last Soulbury grades. Derbyshire County Council is conducting a review of heads of service posts within the Children’s Services department.  

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 the newly attached conditions to the School Improvement Monitoring and Brokering Grant. 

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

As we move towards the winter months, Education Services are focusing on their long-term planning, albeit with a constant focus on maintaining health and safety concerns which may arise due to the on-going pandemic challenges. 

I have engaged with several Local Authorities over that last few months with their future plans as detailed below: 

Dorset 

I continue to be regularly updated on meetings/discussions.  

Work is on-going here on a menopause policy which is of concern to many of our members across all employment locations. Prospect has resources available on this subject

Hampshire 

The Home Working Allowance discussions have now concluded. The agreement allows any staff that were currently eligible to receive this allowance would continue to do so until such time as they move roles or leave the Council. All new employees or take up internal job changes will receive Home Working Allowance aligned to the current HMRC rate. 
This is a positive result following a collaborative approach from all the recognised unions to challenge the initial proposals. 

Hertfordshire 

I have just opened initial consultations with management around changes to Terms and Conditions for staff covered by Soulbury. This will not affect the Soulbury pay structure and is more about bringing Soulbury employees in line with the agreement reached for NJC local government workers.  

These proposals appear to be positive and include increasing redundancy pay calculations and removing deduction in the sickness payment for the first two days of absence. 

Obviously. I will consult with members affected by this in due course. 

Wiltshire 

I am working with our sister union the AEP to enter into discussions with the Authority to gain union recognition for members. 

It appears that there is potential within this employer to increase union membership and this would support our case for recognition. Therefore, if you work here please speak to your colleagues about the benefits of membership. 

Personal cases

I am currently dealing with a few cases around safely returning to work for a few members in the vulnerable/extremely vulnerable group during the pandemic. Since shielding has ceased there has been an increase in members feeling forced back into workspaces without adequate risk assessments being undertaken. Your employer has a Duty of Care to you to ensure any risk is adequately assessed and adjustments made if necessary. 

There also appears to be a trend towards implementing sickness absence sanctions against staff who may be suffering from Long Covid or whose health has deteriorated due to delays in treatment due to pressures on the health service due to the pandemic. It is important to seek advice early if you feel these factors are not being duly considered in your workplace. 

Recruitment 

There has again been limited opportunity to engage with members during the summer months. However our recent Union Week events encouraged participation throughout the sector, with communications going out during the week to all our members.

Angela Moffatt – Northern Ireland

Over the last quarter, Glenn Walsh and I have been attending meetings on behalf of members through the usual Directorate Joint Forums structure and also JNC. 

Glenn Walsh has also been elected as one of the two Vice Presidents of the Prospect Education and Children’s Services Group – so we are hoping this will mean more input from Northern Ireland on issues which directly affect our members. 

The main issues concern ongoing issues relating to Covid-19, workload and the development of new structures linked to the reorganisation of the EA board committees, specifically around risk governance.  We’ll continue to monitor these. 

In line with other organisations, the EA is consulting with employees on future hybrid working arrangements and Prospect members are encouraged to engage with the process and make their views known.

Upcoming issues include the Independent Review of Education, which we have been invited to contribute to – and we are asking members to provide feedback to us for inclusion – please send us your views via [email protected] 

We remain steady in terms of membership and helping members with cases.  It is continuing to prove difficult to move issues on for members, but we are persevering! 


Education and children's services

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