Education Convenors Report to AGM – 2017
Schools remain one of the few areas where employees are made compulsory redundant. UNISON recently renegotiated the Model School Staffing and Redundancy Policy to include an offer of enhanced redundancy payment. This wasn’t previously included in the schools policy and is a hard fought for and welcome addition.
UNISON will continue to put pressure on all school employers, regardless of status to adopt model authority policies and adhere to them in their entirety.
Even without cuts to staff numbers, the management expectation that support staff routinely work above and beyond their job description is something UNISON continues to challenge on a daily basis.
School support staff very often work in low paid, low status jobs that do not reflect the high level of expectation, professionalism and responsibility required to fulfil the role.
Real terms cuts of £3 billion in schools funding 2018/19:-
Following the publication of the government’s final proposal for its National Funding Formula (NFF), the figures are worse than predicted.
Despite Schools Minister Nick Gibb reassuring tory MPs that schools would not lose money, figures suggest 98% of schools face a real terms reduction in funding for every pupil.
Sheffield UNISON branch is already dealing with an unprecedented number of MERs in schools with support staff disproportionately bearing the brunt of budget cuts.
Nationally UNISON is working with TU colleagues in other support staff and teaching unions to say fair funding must also mean sufficient funding.
Locally education convenors continue to put pressure on organisations such as Learn Sheffield and the Schools Forum to use their influence to discourage schools from making short term - and for the most part small monetary savings, by downgrading or making redundant school support staff.
School Support Staff Campaign:-
Redundancy, downgrading and a complete disregard for the professional roles school staff undertake prompted UNISON members to set up the Schools Working Party (WP). Since then the WP has engaged in a public campaign to defend and promote the contribution school support staff make in providing high quality education.
The public have been extremely supportive of the campaign aims i.e. to call upon elected representatives and influential groups in the authority to not only challenge the practice of downgrading support staff, but to actively encourage the retention of experienced staff.
This year the WP aims to target Special Schools. UNISON members who provide high levels of personal, emotional, social and academic support to our most vulnerable pupils are raising concern that, teaching assistants in particular, are being employed at the lowest possible level with no prospect of career progression.
The city’s most vulnerable pupils deserve the highest level of expertise and support. This will not be achieved by employing staff at the lowest possible rate of pay, with no plan or intention to progress beyond that low rate, low status role.
It is vital members in trusts and academies continue to receive UNISON support. Members can be reassured that whatever the status of their school, they will continue to receive strong and effective representation.
Last summer the government was forced into an embarrassing “U” turn on their plan to force all schools to become academies. They do however remain ideologically committed to academisation, despite there being no supporting evidence that academies improve standards of education.
The governments Grammar School plan generated a similar backlash. UNISON condemns the creation of selective schools in the strongest possible terms and will support our members to oppose this move when and wherever necessary.
National School Sector Committee:-
Lisa Smith has recently been appointed to UNISON’s National School Sector Committee.
The committee meets 4 times per year and offers local delegates the opportunity to meet with national officers to discuss key areas of concerns affecting school support staff across the whole of the UK
Newsletters/Communication with members:-
Communication is crucial to ensuring members and their representatives work effectively together. School staff in particular can feel isolated from the branch and each other due to the amount of schools and their diverse locations.
For that reason UNISON ensures school specific newsletters are sent to members in schools at least once every term (3 -4 per academic year). This is a bulk mailing sent directly to school addresses.
Where necessary, members are written to individually. Newsletters are also available to read on the Sheffield UNISON website as is information relating to campaigns and events.
We have recently recruited several new school stewards. Unfortunately we are still a long way from achieving our goal to have “A Steward in Every School”. To try and encourage school staff, every newsletter or bulk mailing sent to schools contains information about becoming a steward.
School Steward’s meetings are held in branch once per half term, as well as the usual access to training opportunities.