Sunday, 17 July 2011

Academies – Pay

Their supporters claim that Academy Schools will protect teachers' pay and conditions, they've even dangled the carrot that once 'restrictions' concerning national agreements are lifted, teachers will be even better paid. To date headteachers have been the main beneficiaries, with six figure salaries and generous perks a standard.

To take the private sector as a model, over the past thirty years executives have restructured, so that only 'core workers' are well paid and receive other benefits like pensions and sick pay. It's a process outlined by Naomi Klein in 'No Logo' (2000), where 'non-core' jobs like catering, security and administration are out-sourced to lowest cost providers. In Microsoft there are the 'permatemps' who can be fired at will or sent home if there isn't any work. As Charles Handy noted in 'The Hungry Spirit' (1999) modern corporations no longer guarantee employment but 'employability' – 'don't count on us, count on yourself'.

When public sector jobs are privatised there is some protection for staff under TUPE legislation (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment), which stipulates that existing wages and conditions must be honoured by a private contractor. However, new staff can be employed on different contracts. But even the protection from TUPE is under threat in the coalition government's 'red tape bonfire'.

So just how safe is teachers' pay? Supply teachers, those itinerant, mendicant friars of the education world (personal interest declared) are an interesting case study. The first question is whether a supply teacher will actually find any work, because under the terms of the 2003 Remodelling Agreement schools can use cover supervisors or higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs) to 'supervise' classes. Thirty years ago every council had their own pool of supply teachers, paid according to national agreements. One by one the council run supply agencies have closed, to be replaced by lower-cost private agencies. Why are they lower-cost? A supply teacher on the highest class teachers pay of Upper Pay Spine Three should expect to earn £190 a day, outside London the highest rate is approximately £130 per day, with no contribution made to teacher's pensions.

Let's consider the 'non-core' theme as it relates to teaching. The new Education Baccalaureate has selected academic subjects like English, Maths, Science, History and Languages as 'core subjects'. If schools want to save some money they could shave some costs by replacing expensive teachers in Drama, PE, RE, Art, Music and DT. Some Further Education colleges are currently changing contracts and recruiting 'instructors' as opposed to lecturers in some vocational subjects. It is estimated that lecturers could lose £10,000 a year as a result of the changes. Lecturers in Newcastle are balloting for strike action. Last year their chief executive Dame Jackie Fisher received a £72,000 retention incentive on top of her salary of £186,000.

Further Education Colleges are a model that some academy schools may wish to emulate. Before 1992 the colleges were responsible to and controlled by local authorities and lecturers' pay was determined by national agreements outlined in a document known as the 'Silver Book' (the teachers' version is the 'Purple Book'). The 1992 Education Act established FE colleges as 'incorporated', independent organisations, elected councillors were replaced on governing bodies by business people. Almost immediately a war of attrition broke out over pay as nationally negotiated rates became 'guidelines' allowing some colleges to opt-out. Lecturers were forced to sign new contracts, that abandoned the old agreements in the 'Silver Book', with the alternative of collecting their P45 from reception. Temporary contracts became the norm. As for the new accountability there were the funding scams revealed in highly critical reports of Halton and Bilston Colleges.

Academy schools do not have to abide by national agreements on teachers' pay, but there hasn't been a concerted campaign to cut pay. One of the main reasons being that academies are still a small minority. If any academy did attempt to cut pay there would be an exodus of staff. But it does raise the question of what would happen if Michael Gove's dream was realised and every school became an academy, would there be a race to the bottom on pay?

The 'Brave New World' of competition? In the dog-eat-dog world of for-profit American higher education Universities spend up to one quarter of their expenditure on marketing, advertising and administration – call centres, glossy brochures and TV advertising. The one thing they don't prioritise is lecturers pay.

With the vast majority of expenditure being accounted for by staffing costs, how could schools chisel out savings? At the moment teachers move automatically up the Main Pay Spine (MPS) until they reach scale 6 and qualify for the Upper Pay Spine, 95% of teachers that apply are successful. Once academies are free from national agreements what is to stop them from removing progression up the pay spine? Or to make the link explicit between pay and results? Then there's the Holy Grail of every right-wing think tank – regional pay. Higher pay where there is more competition for jobs like the South East, lower pay in the North East.

Other conditions that might come under attack? There's the directed time limit of 1,265 hours per year. The expectation that teachers will 'go the extra mile' and work in the evening, at weekends or during school holidays. Once again the model is from America, in Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools, there's the nine hour school day, with Saturday morning school and shorter holidays. Worryingly some potential academies have visited KIPP schools with a view to copying their approach in England.

In truth there has already been a a substantial erosion in teachers' job security. When schools closed or made redundancies Local Education Authorities (LEAs) would find teachers another job within the authority. Once Local Management of Schools (LMS) was introduced in 1990 schools became more 'independent', the onus was on teachers to find another job. Temporary contracts were a rarity, now some teachers never have the security of a permanent contract.

So what will happen to teachers' pay once academies acquire that precious 'freedom to innovate'? National agreements ditched, payment by results, regional pay, casualisation, domination by chains like Serco and Capita? It isn't a done deal, in school after school facing conversion to academy status there have been successful ballots for strike action and in some cases the process has been halted.

Academies won't affect teachers' pay? They would say that wouldn't they?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Everton Jury May 26

'THE Dying Swan' was a ballet from Le Carnaval des Animaux a piece d'ocassion first performed in St Petersburg in 1905.

Yet none of the 4,000 appearances by Miss Anna Pavlova in the role could have eclipsed the performance by Jon Obi Mikel on Sunday.

The game epitomised our season as we finally triumphed over adversity.

Seventh place after being left on the grid at the start of the season was a commendable achievement. At Everton we cling on to some of the old traditions – so we might play in a scruffy old stadium, but we still know how to treat people the right way. Sacking the manager in the corridor after the game? It just showed a lack of class, lack of dignity.

Finally, what do Man United, Arsenal and Everton all have in common?

During the last season they're the only top flight clubs where the owners didn't invest any money. The Glazer Brothers loaded Man United down with debt and Arsenal made a mint out of selling Highbury.

Over to you, Mr Kenwright..

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Academies Letter in The Guardian

Gove's theory is that competition will improve the education system, like in the US. They've experimented with magnet schools, small schools and charter schools (the model for academies). The latter have "brands" like Edison and KIPP now running schools as "chains".

There is, of course, an alternative. In Finland they have a fully comprehensive education system, private education is minimal, and schools co-operate and don't view other schools as rivals in the market for consumers (children) and stakeholders (parents).

So where has this marketisation model left the US? Underfunded, the grim legacy of testing with the No Child Left Behind Act and an education system that is chronically divided according to wealth.


Friday, 20 May 2011

Everton Jury May 19

OUR last away game of 2010-11 ended with a whimper at West Brom.

I felt sorry for Bily – under pressure to get some tackles in; by the standard of his red card Nigel de Jong would never last 90 minutes.

It’s been the ‘what if’ season. But go back to 2004 and after the era of ‘Agent Johnson’ we were the laughing stock of the top flight, the club in free-fall, Rooney gone, favourites for relegation, we couldn’t even sign a player on a loan deal.

Between them, Kenwright and Moyes rescued the club and on a minimal budget we’ve over-achieved.

‘Evertonians for Change’ have been selling amber and gold scarves outside Goodison; it’s not on the scale of the Newton Heath revolt and Kenwright is not the Glazer Brothers.

However, there are some un-answered questions on investment.


Teachers' pensions

Pensions are part of the unique, unwritten contract with government that is taken on trust by teachers. When significant changes were made in 2008 we were promised they were "once in a lifetime" and the pension scheme was secure and viable. So what is to stop every government from gouging chunks out of teachers' pensions?

As for our generous, "gold-plated" pensions, we can now join our colleagues in the private sector in the race to the bottom as final-salary pensions are jettisoned (except of course for the chief executives, and there is no sign of MPs abandoning their platinum-plated pensions, courtesy of the tax-payer).

As a graduate profession, teachers are considerably under-paid when compared to law, medicine or finance. Pensions represent deferred wages and at an average of £10,000 per annum aren't exactly a king's ransom.

So now we are hit with Mr Gove's triple whammy - pay more, retire later and receive less. The danger is that NQTs facing the financial pressure of student loans, paying for housing and 9 per cent of their salary in pension contributions will just decide to opt out - who thinks of pensions when they are in their twenties? This will inevitably lead to the total collapse of the teachers' pension scheme.

After three decades of being dumped on from a great height by successive governments, being branded as total, useless incompetents by the media and hounded by Ofsted inspectors, maybe, finally, finally, the outrageous attack on our pensions will be the proverbial straw that breaks the proverbial camel's proverbial back.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Public Schools

Millions badly spent

How did public schools acquire charitable status (Opinion, 10 May)? Some were established in the Middle Ages by generous benefactors, their aim not to educate the poor, but the "sons of dec'yed gentlemen". In Victorian times, case law established a highly questionable interpretation of "public benefit".

Through claiming "charitable" status public schools are able to garner millions in tax exemptions. If this tax could be reclaimed by the state it could be spent on the 93% of pupils in the state sector.

Letter in Guardian Education

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Everton Jury

UNLESS you were hiding behind an 18 foot brick wall you couldn’t have missed that global spectacle – extravagant wealth; some participants acting like spoilt children; over-hyped PR; sycophantic, oleaginous commentators and hysterical spectators.

Yes, apart from the Royal Wedding, we also saw the worst and the best of the ‘beautiful game’ in the UEFA Champions League.

Everton might not be in the top 20 of the world’s richest clubs (Manchester City have climbed from 20th to 11th place) but our success is due to honest endeavour, not some quick money fix from a billionaire or sheikh.

Another disturbing trend in football is the cult of the manager – Wenger, Ferguson and Mourinho.

Contrast them with the understated David Moyes who just gets on with the task of getting the best out of his players. No whining, no mind games, no excuses.