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.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Everton Jury

IT’S the fag end of the season with nothing to play for.

Injuries to our best players – Arteta, Fellaini, Cahill, Saha, and a subs’ bench that looks like the old Youth Training Scheme, a bunch of willing lads with no experience.

But we are Everton, so being contrarians we produce our best form in unlikely circumstances.

As a fan, I never really enjoy the Old Trafford experience – overpriced tickets and parking charges, getting body searched by over-zealous stewards before you even get in and then the knowledge that any banner that doesn't profess undying love for Man United and all of its players will be instantly seized and confiscated by jobsworth officials.

As for the 'atmosphere' (Everton fans excluded) how can 70,000 football fans be so quiet? Shhhhhh...

This Saturday it's our best chance for years of getting a result. Good to see at Wembley that United haven't lost the art of losing gracefully – not.

TES letter on academies

Regarding last week's editorial on academies ("The battle against academies was never about principle. And now dogma has had its day"), is TES editor Gerard Kelly desperate to gain recognition as an intellectual gadfly or is he just trying to provoke controversy?

Academies aren't just opposed by a few union "diehards". Numerous ballots of teachers in schools threatened with academy status have led to strike action - Shorefields in Liverpool being the latest example. In many cases, plans for academies have been delayed or rescinded.

In removing themselves from council control, academies are potentially destroying borough-wide services such as libraries, music and provision for special educational needs. The governing bodies of academies are dominated by the sponsoring organisation. A large number of academies are socially, ethnically or culturally divisive because they are sponsored by religious organisations. The existing academies also have a rather patchy record when it comes to pupil achievement.

Why the rush for academy status? One major reason is the outrageous financial bribes - with a stroke of Michael Gove's pen, a new academy emerges debt free. De La Salle in Liverpool has passed on its £500,000 debt to the city council.

Have unions ignored academies? Far from it. In every case they have negotiated recognition agreements and protected national pay and conditions. However, if academies do reach a critical mass, what is to stop them from following the example of further education, using the law of supply and demand and paying below national "guidelines"?

Some readers may enjoy Gerard Kelly's lightweight, knockabout editorials; for me they just undermine the newspaper's credibility.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

'Manchester ' derby

The "Manchester" derby, FA Cup semi-final (Paul Scholes the only locally born player, and he didn't last long) was a bit like watching Alien vs Predator. I didn't want either side to win – City with their £700m from Arabian despots and United loaded down with debt from American owners.

Letter Independent

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Everton Jury April 14

WITH so many of our best players injured, David Moyes asked for others to come to the fore. So step forward Leon Osman.

If he could recreate his persona on Second Life, he’d change his nationality to Brazilian and would be known simply as ‘Leon’.

Every time he scored or made an assist, his agent would be hinting about a move to the continent: ‘He loves playing at Everton, but...’

When he was dropped to the bench he’d have a hissy fit, throw his toys out of the pram and complain about the lack of shopping facilities in the frozen north.

Inevitably there’d be the missed training sessions and when he did turn up, there’d be the customary strop with the manager.

However, in the age of celebrity football, he’s always going to be Leon from Billinge and then there’s Tony from Huyton...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Nuclear accidents

It's interesting how after every nuclear 'accident' or disaster we hear the same mantra, 'lessons learnt... can't happen again. Only it does.

Britain is certainly not squeaky clean. There was the Windscale fire of 10 October 1957, ranked in severity at level 5 on the 7 point International Nuclear Event Scale. The graphite core of a nuclear reactor caught fire releasing substantial amounts of radioactive contaminants.

Then there was the incident at the Wylfa Magnox power station on Anglesey on 31st July 1993. A 3ft long, 130lb steel grab on the end of crane used to lift nuclear fuel rods broke off and fell 40ft into a reactor. It lodged in one of the 6,150 fuel channels in the reactor, blocking a small part of the flow of carbon dioxide coolant gas through the structure. After control room staff detected the breakage they allowed the reactor to keep operating for nine hours before shutting it down.

In 2005 a leak of highly radioactive nuclear fuel dissolved in concentrated nitric acid, enough to half fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, forced the closure of Sellafield's Thorp reprocessing plant. The highly dangerous mixture, containing about 20 tonnes of uranium and plutonium fuel, leaked through a fractured pipe into a huge stainless steel chamber which was radioactive that it was impossible for workers to enter.

Finally there's Japan and the Tokai-mura accident in 1999 a direct product of cost-cutting and appalling safety standards.

The JCO Corporation, which operated the Tokai-mura plant, ran an experimental reactor known as Joyo. The process involved mixing a uranium oxide with nitric acid in a dissolving tank to produce uranyl nitrate. JCO had altered the safety manual to permit workers to combine uranium oxide and nitric acid in steel buckets rather than the dissolving tank. The solution was manually poured into the buffer tank.

To save time the untrained and unsupervised workers mixed seven buckets, or some 16 kilograms, and poured them directly into the precipitation tank instead of the specially shaped buffer tank. As the seventh bucket was poured in the mixture reached critical mass initiating a sustained chain reaction.

The nuclear reaction lasted up to 20 hours exposing the plant and 500 metres beyond to levels of radiation many times above the official safe dose.

No government regulator had inspected the operation in 10 years. As a result the Labor Ministry conducted inspections of 17 facilities. Health and safety violations were found at 15. Inspections of nine nuclear fuel processing plants and laboratories found 25 violations ranging from inadequate training of staff, failure to provide workers with regular medical checkups and failure to report radiation exposures.

Lessons learnt in time for Fukushima?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Everton Jury March 31st

ALONGSIDE Antiques Roadshow, there are two other word combinations that are guaranteed to induce the advanced stages of narcolepsy – ‘England Friendly’.

A currency that has become completely debased, the FA desperate to fill Wembley to pay off the debts. So many substitutes it’s impossible to keep track of who is playing.

You don’t need more than 100 words to describe the utter futility. So, eat my socks! Ghana, with their will to win and backed by 20,000 impassioned fans, created a fantastic atmosphere.

Baines should be starting every England game, he is without doubt the best full-back in the country. Now that Jagielka has signed a long term contract I’m not willing him to have a mare in the England games – in case he gets poached by another club.

Who knows I might start watching England now. Terry, Lampard, Cole, Gerrard, Carroll, Rooney... Hmmm, on second thoughts...


History Teaching - Letter Education Guardian

After Jamie's Dream School we now have the musings of Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson (Reduced to odds and sods, 29 March). Ferguson might have mentioned primary schools, where just 4% of curriculum time is devoted to the subject. He quotes extensively from Ofsted: this is a bit like asking a serial killer to advise the homicide squad. Testing, league tables, the resultant narrowed curriculum, all of this enforced by the Ofsted inspectors. Ferguson's view of history is narrow and reductive, but despite that, some history, any history would be welcome.