Conditions and Employment

ASCL position statements

These position statements are agreed via our Conditions and Employment Committee and cover:

  • pay and conditions of members
  • teacher and leader supply, recruitment, retention and workload
  • performance management policies
  • pensions
  • employer engagement

What is the context?
Since the introduction of the academies programme in 2010, we have seen the conversion of almost 40% of schools into academy trusts. The government’s vision for every school to be part of a family of schools in strong academy trusts will undoubtedly see this proportion increasing.

The pandemic forced employers to expedite new ways of working and has shown that flexibility is possible in many business professional roles. 

ASCL position: A school system based on academies is best served by the retention of the National Agreement on Pay and Conditions of Service (NJC Green Book) as a minimum national benchmark.

While not providing a perfect framework for remunerating school business leaders, the Green Book does provide a current set of terms and conditions determined by a negotiating body. If adopted in full, the Green Book would ensure equity and parity of conditions for business leaders and may go some way towards supporting the retention of practitioners who intend to leave the system.

We believe that employers should also use flexible working opportunities wherever possible to improve the conditions of service, and aid in the recruitment and retention, of those working in school or trust business leadership roles.

Why are we saying this?
Although many employers continue to adopt the national terms and conditions for teachers, this does not always happen for support staff, and in particular for those working in senior support staff roles such as school business leaders. Disappointingly, it is not always the case that support staff are employed on the equivalent or better terms and conditions.

This can mean that support staff can achieve better pay and conditions of service working outside the academy sector in other public sector roles. Ensuring that the provisions of the NJC Green Book are a minimum national benchmark for school and trust business leaders will help trusts in the recruitment and retention of these crucial strategic roles.

 

(updated from June 2018)

What is the context? 
In recent years, the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) has included recommendations for differentiated pay awards.

ASCL position: As a fundamental principle, all national pay awards should be fully funded by central government. The impact of not fully funding the pay award will bring schools to crisis point and place our members in an invidious position, making it necessary to set deficit budgets and leading to schools becoming insolvent.

In order to maintain competitiveness in the labour market, ASCL believes that the annual uplift should at least keep pace with inflation* and should apply to all points within all pay ranges and allowances. It is important that employers ensure that their pay policies reflect this principle.

Why are we saying this? 
The STPCD no longer includes mandatory national scales for each pay range; only a minimum and maximum value for each range, and advisory pay scales for the Unqualified Teacher Pay Range, Main Pay Range and Upper Pay Range. It is for employers to decide whether or not to include scales and if so what values to apportion. The STRB recommendation can therefore only ever be to uplift the minima and maxima points. ASCL’s view is that annual uplifts should apply to any pay point or allowance that has been adopted by the employer within their policy.

The pressure on school finances is caused by the lack of government funding for these increases, and ASCL believes it is essential that the government provides the necessary funding so that schools can afford to pay their staff appropriately.

* ASCL believes that the Retail Prices Index (RPI) is the most appropriate inflation rate to be used for pay awards.

(updated from July 2016)

What is the context?
In 1975, the Employment Protection Act was introduced, which included a statutory right to paid time off for trade union representatives to undertake training and trade union “duties”. The Act also gave Acas the responsibility for publishing Codes of Practice containing practical guidance for the purpose of promoting positive industrial relations. The statutory right to paid time off, and various editions of the Code of Practice have been in place ever since.

In addition to guidance around the provision of facility time, the Acas Code of Practice contains guidance around the provision of certain other facilities intended to assist trade union representatives in discharging their duties. These might include accommodation, access to a telephone, secure storage, the use of noticeboards, confidential space to speak with members, and access to members working at another location. Generally, the details of all facilities (including facility time) are contained within a “Facilities Agreement” or a “Trade Union Recognition Agreement.

The statutory obligation to provide Facility Time to Trade Union representatives sits with the employer, whether in a maintained school setting, an Academy Trust setting, or a free school.

Trade Union representatives and members also have a statutory right to reasonable unpaid time off for undertaking TU activities. 

ASCL position: ASCL recognises that facility time is a statutory responsibility and advises strongly that members’ employers buy into Local Authority pooled arrangements where they are available.

Why are we saying it?
Managing industrial relations can be one of the most rewarding elements of management and members are likely to find that pooled arrangements are the simplest, most effective, and most efficient way to manage these. All trade unions recognise pooled arrangements as the least disruptive way of providing facility time.

Pooled arrangements mean that multiple schools can share the cost of trade union representatives between themselves. Without such arrangements, each employer must allow paid time off for representatives from every teaching and support staff union, including training time, meaning that the cost can escalate rapidly. For some unions, training can take around 10 days each year and potentially there could be up to 8 workplace representatives of the various recognised unions in every school and academy. The cost of providing this would self-evidently surpass the per-pupil cost of contributing to pooled arrangements.

Schools will also generally find that the more experienced local trade union representatives they will have access to may help to resolve issues at an early stage and often informally.

Most importantly, schools should remember that if they opt out of pooled arrangements, they must agree an alternative way to discharge this statutory obligation with all of the recognised trade unions.
 

(updated from October 2016) 

What is the context?
Since the introduction of the Academies Programme in 2010, the sector has seen the conversion of almost 40% of schools into academy trusts.  The government’s vision for every school to be part of a family of schools in strong academy trusts will undoubtedly see this proportion increasing. 

ASCL position: A school system based on academies is best served by the retention of the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document and Burgundy Book as a minimum national benchmark. This would ensure stability within the system and allow school leaders and governing bodies to focus on raising standards in schools.

Why are we saying it?
The STPCD and Burgundy Book set out nationally agreed terms and conditions for teachers and school leaders.  We believe that these should be adhered to as a minimum entitlement for all teachers and leaders to ensure that there is no detrimental impact on individual terms and conditions.  Whilst TUPE protections exist for staff employed at the point of conversion, these do not cover staff who may join an academy trust after conversion.  If terms and conditions were less favourable this would cause recruitment and retention issues, which would exacerbate the ongoing crisis in the profession.
 

What is the context? 
We are aware that some employers are starting to request the COVID-19 vaccination status of their employees. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is clear that a person’s COVID-19 status is special category data, as it is their health information.

ASCL position: It is ASCL’s view that any employer who wishes to check and/or record the COVID-19 status of their employees must adhere to the ICO requirements, and that employees must be informed of the purpose for the collection and how the data will be used.

Why are we saying this? 
In line with the information from the ICO, we believe that, if employers wish to check the COVID status of their employees, they must ensure that they have a clear, necessary and transparent reason for doing so, and this must not be on a ‘just in case’ basis.  

Furthermore, the use of this information must be fair, relevant and necessary for a specific purpose and must not result in any unfair or unjustified treatment of employees.
 

What is the context? 
National agreements for school staff include provision for contracting or being in contact with infectious diseases. Changes to COVID-19 self-isolation rules mean that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to self-isolate as a result of close contact. 

ASCL position: It is ASCL’s view that, where staff are instructed to self-isolate due to contracting COVID-19 or due to close contact, they should be paid as usual.

Why are we saying this? 
The national agreements make no reference to vaccination status, so we believe that employers should follow these provisions and ensure staff are either enabled to work from home or paid as normal if they are instructed to self-isolate. Where employers do not follow national agreements, we believe that they should also follow these provisions, due to the extenuating circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

What is the context? 
From 11 November 2021, the government mandated that all care home workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they are exempt under the regulations. This decision has prompted some employers in other sectors to follow suit and mandate vaccinations for employees.

ASCL position: There is no legal requirement for people to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  Therefore, we believe that having the vaccine must be a personal choice based on individual circumstances and not mandated by employers.

Why are we saying this? 
We believe that any medical treatment, including vaccinations for COVID-19 and other illnesses, must be a personal choice. People may have reasons relating to their health or religion that mean that they do not want to be vaccinated. ACAS advises that it is best for employers to support staff to get the vaccine without forcing them to do so. We believe that the decision should lie with the individual, not employers.
 

What is the context? 
There is no national pay framework that specifically recognises business leadership roles, and as a result there is a disparity in the level of pay and recognition in these roles. 

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that job profiles used by some local authorities were carried out many years ago, and do not always reflect how the responsibilities and accountabilities of these roles and the profession have evolved in that time. Local authorities operate their own job evaluation and grading framework, generally within the National Joint Council (NJC) pay scales, and this varies greatly between authorities. This has resulted in a fragmented position where some schools are denied access to higher pay scales which are warranted by these roles, and others are not.

ASCL position: Business or executive leaders who undertake whole school, college or trust responsibilities are an integral part of the leadership team. ASCL believes that this should be reflected in their status and remuneration. 

Where this is not the case, there should be a review of the business leader’s pay to ensure their crucial role is appropriately recognised and remunerated.

Why are we saying this? 
We believe that business or executive leaders who undertake whole school, college or trust responsibilities should be paid with parity to other leadership colleagues holding the same level of responsibility, regardless of any particular route into education leadership.

Where this isn’t the case, we ask employers to review the remuneration of their business leader to ensure that it truly reflects the seniority of their role and that they are paid in parity with, and receive the same recognition as, senior leadership colleagues who hold the same level of responsibility.
 

What is the context?
The NHS says that for some people, coronavirus (Covid-19) can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called post-Covid-19 syndrome or 'long Covid'.

National agreements on terms and conditions for teachers and support staff include arrangements for absences relating to infectious diseases or contact with infectious diseases which prevent an employee from attending their workplace, these are applicable to Covid-19 and self-isolation.

Due to the unprecedented situation created by the pandemic, ASCL encourages all employers to adopt the principles of these arrangements even where they do not ordinarily follow the national agreements, and to exclude these absences from any absence monitoring/triggers. 

The national agreements do not cover arrangements for managing absences related to long Covid, with the exception to some circumstances in the Burgundy Book (para 10.1) and Red Book (para 88).

ASCL position: ASCL believes that employers should apply the principles of managing disability related absences to employees who have been diagnosed by a medical practitioner to be suffering with symptoms of long Covid.

Employers should use a flexible and sympathetic approach to managing these absences and consider flexible working opportunities when making reasonable adjustments to assist employees in returning to work.

Why are we saying it?
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published in April 2021 covering the four-week period to 6 March 2021 estimates that 1.1 million people in the UK (932,000 England) were suffering from ongoing symptoms after contracting the virus at least three months beforehand. Of the 1.1 million, 114,000 of these were in the teaching and education sector, the second highest employment sector after health and social care at 122,000.

Of the people with self-reported long Covid, 697,000 first had Covid-19 at least 12 weeks previously, 70,000 first had it at least one year previously.

There is the potential for long Covid to be classified as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if it is deemed to meet the criteria of a 'physical or mental impairment' that has a 'substantial' (more than minor) and 'long-term' (lasted for 12 months or likely to last for at least 12 months) negative effect on an individual’s ability to do normal daily activities.

Guidance from ACAS published on 30 April 2021 states: "It's a good idea for the employer to focus on the reasonable adjustments they can make rather than trying to work out if an employee's condition is a disability."

Consequently, we believe it to be a sensible and fair approach for employers apply the principles of managing disability related absences to diagnosed cases of long Covid.  This will also ensure that employers do not treat employees suffering from long Covid more favourably than employees who may have other recognised disability related absence, and inadvertently discriminating against them.
 

What is the context?
As part of ASCL’s role as a trade union, employers consult with us on their policies.  Following a period of consultation, some employers occasionally ask union representatives to sign a sheet stating that the policy has been “agreed”. Our current approach is to not sign such policy sign-off sheets but simply to proactively engage in meaningful consultations, with a view to bringing policies as close as possible to the position statements agreed by Council. We then confirm with the employer that ASCL recognises that a meaningful consultation took place prior to the adoption and implementation of the policy.

ASCL position:
ASCL does not believe that the default position should be that all employment policies should be treated as collective agreements between the employer group and trade unions. Therefore, while we will engage as fully as we are able to in all consultations to which we are invited, we will not formally sign sheets stating that a policy has been agreed between the employer and the trade unions.

Why are we saying it?
By signing a sheet stating that ASCL has agreed a policy, it may have the effect of giving the policy the status of a “collective agreement” as defined by Section 178 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 [TULRCA]. It is important to note that collective agreements automatically transfer to the new employer when a TUPE transfer takes place. 

In addition to this, in some cases Trade Union Recognition Agreements may include a statement such as:

Under X’s conditions of employment the terms and conditions of any local collective agreement negotiated between X and its recognized Trade Unions are automatically incorporated into the contracts of employment of each employee who is subject to that agreement.” 

The effect of this may be that we are collectively negotiating and agreeing potentially detrimental changes to the terms and conditions contained within an individual contract of employment.
 

What is the context? The employer pension contribution to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) is valued every four years. From September 2019, the rate was increased from 16.48% to 23.6%. This rise currently is fully funded in state-funded schools, FE, sixth form colleges and other training providers. 

The government does not intend to fund the rise in independent schools (or HE). Short notice meant that independent schools were unable to plan for it. The additional financial burden resulted in some independent school employers considering opting out completely from the TPS, and instead looking for alternative pension provision for their employees. Consequently, the government is now proposing to allow independent schools a phased opt-out from the TPS, whereby existing members are kept in the scheme which would then be closed to new recruits at whatever level.  

ASCL position: Where a teacher or school or college leader in an independent school meets the eligibility requirements for the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) and wishes to enrol or remain in the scheme, then their employer should make this provision available.

Why are we saying it? Whilst we recognise the financial burden of employer pension contributions, the answer cannot be to withdraw or partially withdraw from the TPS. Instead, employers should make every effort to make savings elsewhere in order to continue to offer access to the TPS for our members.

Access to a high-quality pension scheme is a fundamental benefit which all eligible teachers and school leaders should receive. We are concerned that phased or blanket withdrawal from the TPS will be of detriment to teachers and leaders working in the independent sector, on recruitment and retention in the sector, on mobility between schools and sectors, and on the financial cost of the TPS. 

(NB This is an update to the position statement from June 2019)

 

What is the context?
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, significant numbers of school staff have been classified as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) by the Government/NHS.  This means that they are at very high risk of severe illness from Covid-19.  In areas where there are high infection rates or during periods of increasing cases nationally, the relevant local authority or the government may issue guidance for these staff not to attend the workplace.

ASCL position:
It is ASCL’s position that all CEV staff should be supported to work from home where government guidance advises this. Where this is not possible and guidance is that they should not attend work, they should be supported to stay at home.  In both cases it is ASCL’s firm view that any affected employees should receive full pay and not suffer any financial detriment.

Why are we saying it?
As part of an employer’s duty of care and the related risk assessments, every effort should be made to protect the most vulnerable staff.  Where it is deemed safest, or there is strong official advice for them not to attend the workplace then employers should support staff to work from home. It is also important that any staff affected by this guidance do not suffer any financial detriment as a result of being unable to attend the workplace, if they are not able to carry out their role from home.
 

What is the context?
A quarter of the UK’s workforce already works part-time, while nearly two-thirds of the UK’s full-time workforce has some other form of flexibility. However, this is not reflected across the education sector.

The DfE’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy reports that many teachers leave or choose not to return to teaching because they cannot access part-time or other flexible working opportunities.

While there can be some real or perceived barriers to flexible working in schools, there is more that can be done to accommodate requests where possible.

ASCL co-chaired the Flexible Working in Schools Summit in December 2017. We have a long-standing commitment to encouraging and supporting more flexible working in schools.

ASCL position:
We welcome the DfE’s commitment, in their Recruitment and Retention Strategy, to support headteachers to adapt to changing demands by helping to transform approaches to flexible working.

ASCL believes that all employers should positively consider flexible working opportunities for all staff. They should proactively work to overcome any challenges that this may present in order to recruit and retain high quality staff, and to help address equality and diversity issues across the profession. We will support our members to do this by providing guidance, case studies and articles, and signposting relevant research and literature.

Why are we saying it?
The teacher recruitment and retention crisis is worsening year-on-year and, with a projected significant increase in secondary pupil numbers by 2026, urgent action needs to be taken.  

Flexible working has been highlighted as one way to help increase both recruitment and retention. This is by enabling schools to recruit talented staff that may otherwise not have applied and to retain specialist expertise and maintain the breadth of curriculum.  

It can also provide opportunities to reduce costs by implementing alternative ways of working.  

In addition to helping to address equality and diversity issues, flexible working has been shown to have a positive impact on staff wellbeing, leading to improved energy and creativity for the whole staff.

What is the context? Performance-related pay (PRP) was introduced for all teachers in the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) in September 2013.  Although academies are not bound by the STPCD, the majority still follow it, particularly in relation to PRP.  

ASCL position: There is currently no evidence that performance-related pay impacts positively on pupil outcomes, and growing evidence that it may have a negative impact on retention and workload. Therefore, we believe that employers should have the autonomy to choose whether or not to continue with a performance-related pay system or to develop an alternative robust appraisal system that is not linked to pay.

Why are we saying it? Recent research suggests that PRP does not work in schools in the same way that it does in business. Linking pay to performance, which can be difficult to effectively and accurately measure in an increasingly subjective accountability system, can actually demotivate teachers.

In addition, the bureaucracy involved in linking performance to pay impacts negatively on workload for both the school leaders operating the system, and the staff being appraised.

 

What is the context? The employer pension contribution to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) is valued every four years. At the most recent valuation it was decided to increase the rate from 16.48% to 23.6% from this September because of a lower than anticipated economic growth forecast.

The government has said that it will fully fund this rise for state-funded schools (£830m) and FE, sixth form colleges and other training providers (£80m) in the 2019/20 financial year. It will then be a matter for the government spending review.

The government does not intend to fund the rise in HE (£80m) or independent schools (£110m). The lack of notice of this change means that independent schools have not been able to plan for it. The additional financial burden this will impose means that some independent schools are considering no longer offering access to the TPS, and instead looking for alternative pension provision for their employees.

ASCL position: Where a teacher or school or college leader meets the eligibility requirements for the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and wishes to enrol or remain in the scheme, then their employer should make this provision available.

Why are we saying it? Whilst we recognise the financial burden the increase in employer contributions will have on schools, and the disproportionate impact this will have on smaller institutions, the answer cannot be to withdraw from the TPS. Instead, employers should make every effort to make savings elsewhere in order to continue to offer access to the TPS.

Access to a high-quality pension scheme is a fundamental benefit which teachers expect to receive, regardless of the sector in which they work. Were independent schools to withdraw from the TPS, we are concerned that this would negatively impact on teachers and leaders working in the independent sector, on recruitment and retention in the sector, and on ease of movement between the state and independent sectors.

(NB The section 'Why are we saying this' was updated December 2020)