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?