On the front line
Claire Dent – Negotiations executive for London and the South East
Stuart Anderson – Negotiations Executive for Scotland, North and North west
Chris Manning – Negotiations executive for the Midlands, South and Wales
Education and Children Services has seen a settled period as there have been fewer restructures or consultations than usual.
Due to the reduction in funding for school effectiveness, Ealing has been consulting on alternative proposals for retaining school effectiveness support functions.
It has decided to form The Ealing Learning Partnership organisation, a traded service to schools. Some redundancies have taken place, but most of these have been voluntary and overall, the consultation was robust.
Kent County Council has postponed the date to TUPE transfer staff to a new company wholly owned by KCC until 1 September 2018.
Prospect continues to meet management every month to take remaining issues forward. Prospect members do not appear unduly concerned by any of the proposals.
The shadow board has agreed to consider recognition of other non-recognised unions and this is still under debate.
Most of my time this quarter has been taken up with personal cases.
Delay in implementing reasonable adjustments
I continue to support a disabled member employed by a London local authority who has been off sick for more than six months.
Our member was prevented from returning to work for most of this time because of the LA’s failure to make sufficient reasonable adjustments to her working pattern.
A delay supplying the correct equipment, as assessed by the Access to Work report, also exacerbated her condition. These failures have had an impact on her mental health.
The correct adjustments and equipment have now been put in place and we have agreed a phased return to work.
Stress and workload
Two members from the same local authority sought advice on stress and workload. After detailed discussions, both decided to accept voluntary redundancy under a settlement agreement arrangement.
Caring for a child with a disability
I am currently supporting a member with caring responsibilities for a disabled child in another authority. Our member’s line manager offered no support, instead making derogatory comments about our member always needing to finish on time.
We tackled this informally through the director of the service and have now achieved recognition that the employer needs to make changes. The grounds were the employer’s failure to make a reasonable adjustment for someone who cares for a disabled child and failure in their duty of care for their employee’s mental well-being.
I have several other cases where members who are managers have been accused of bullying while trying to robustly manage their staff.
Fortunately, a robust investigation usually disproves these allegations but they do have an adverse effect on members’ mental health and well-being.
Blackpool review shows engagement works
Early engagement and meaningful conversations with Blackpool local authority led to a proposal on merging Early Years and Early Years SEND being improved.
Blackpool carried out a commissioning and service summary review which affected our member in Early Years and Early Years SEND.
Up until this review, Blackpool had maintained and resourced these functions separately.
Although this had been a common approach across English local authorities, most have now combined the two functions in response to reduced funding from central government.
Prospect members had some concerns about the proposal including:
- retaining the capacity to fully maintain all statutory duties
- providing support to settings on implementing all elements of the early years foundation stage statutory framework, including the safeguarding and welfare requirements, and
- the potential loss of expertise to the LA.
We submitted a detailed response to the consultation and I attended individual consultation meetings.
Our response included a proposal for an alternative structure and suggested funding streams for a new post in the structure which the employer welcomed.
This shows the importance of submitting alternative proposals for employers to consider.
Union survey for inspectors
Prospect has recently become aware of a number of issues facing members working as inspectors with Ofsted Estyn and as HMIs.
- how work is assigned to inspectors
- how inspectors are supported when in schools and settings
- how data is managed
- solo inspections in early years.
We will organise a survey in the coming weeks on these and other aspects of working as an inspector. This will help us to assess all the issues facing inspectors and the best way to support them.
If you are an inspector, please look out for the survey and complete it. If you have an issue that you would like to bring to our attention, or thoughts on what should be included in the survey, please let me know at Stuart.firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have recently started working as an inspector and have not updated your membership record, please let us know.
If you have any colleagues working as inspectors who may be interested in joining Prospect, please forward this article to them.
Personal casework for members continues to take up the majority of my time.
Almost half of the respondents to our recent survey said that individual support with problems at work was the service of most value to them – second only to news and information from the group.
Ongoing personal cases include six grievances and three school improvement staff facing complaints made against them. Three of the grievances are from members of the same team.
A common theme of some of the recent grievances has been a tendency for the employer to let the agreed timescales slip. This is very unhelpful for members and increases the levels of stress and uncertainty.
Restructuring and transfers
I am still waiting for consultation to begin over the TUPE transfer of the school improvement function from Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Ceredigion into a central team at Ein Rhanbarth ar Waith/Education through Regional Working.
We have Prospect members in all six of the county authorities, each with slightly different local terms and conditions.
Dorset local government review
Nine councils (county, unitary and district) are being consolidated into two. The proposal is to replace the existing nine authorities with two unitary councils for all of Dorset:
Urban Dorset (pop. 410,300) – The conurbation of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. To be known as Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole Council (BCP) from 01 April 2019.
Rural Dorset (pop. 376,600) – All the rest, currently served by Dorset County, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland councils. To be known as Dorset Area Council from 01 April 2019.
Prospect has contacted ECS members in Dorset and support is being provided.
Bristol City Council’s management of change for ‘Trading with schools, teaching and learning service’ is nearly complete, but unfortunately one of our members will be made redundant.
If you are affected by restructures or other issues in your workplace, or if you feel that you need individual support for any work-related issue, please contact the ECS Group office in Wakefield on email@example.com