Leicester District
National Education Union

23rd January 2019

There Won't Be Any Changes When We Become an Academy. Don't Believe a Word of It!

Without fail, every single school that has converted into an academy has told the staff that they have nothing to fear, that nothing will change for them, and that their terms and conditions will remain the same. Almost without fail, this has turned out to be untrue. Take for example Rushey Mead Educational Trust (RMET), formed when Rushey Mead Secondary School became an academy in 2015. The Local Authority (LA) Policy has the following section in it regarding providing support for a teacher experiencing difficulties:

Teachers experiencing difficulties

When dealing with a teacher experiencing difficulties, the objective is to provide support and guidance through the appraisal process in such a way that the teacher's performance improves and the problem is therefore resolved.

Where it is apparent that the teacher's personal circumstances are leading to difficulties at school, support will be offered as soon as possible, without waiting for the formal annual assessment.

If an appraiser identifies through the appraisal process, or via other sources of information, for example parental complaints, that the difficulties experienced by a teacher are such that, if not rectified, could lead to capability procedures, the appraiser, the Headteacher, or a member of the leadership team, will, as part of the appraisal meet the teacher to:

give clear written feedback to the teacher about the nature and seriousness of the concerns;

give the teacher the opportunity to comment on and discuss the concerns;

give the teacher at least 5 working days notice that a meeting will be held to discuss targets for improvement alongside a programme of support and inform the teacher that s/he has the right to be assisted by a representative of an independent trade union/professional association or work colleague and at any future meetings where capability will be discussed;

in consultation with the teacher at the above meeting an action plan with support will be established (for example coaching, training, in -class support, mentoring, structured observations, visits to other classes or schools or discussions with advisory teachers), that will help address those specific concerns;

make clear how progress will be monitored and when it will be reviewed;

explain the implications and process if no - or insufficient - improvement is made

The teacher's progress will continue to be monitored as part of the appraisal process and a reasonable time given for the teacher's performance to improve. This will depend upon the circumstances but will be for a minimum period of 6 weeks, with appropriate support as agreed in the Action Plan, in order that the aim of recovering and improving performance can be achieved. During this monitoring period the teacher will be given regular feedback on progress and arrangements will be made to modify the support programme if appropriate.

If sufficient progress is made such that the teacher is performing at a level that indicates there is no longer a possibility of capability procedures being invoked the teacher should be informed of this at a formal meeting with the appraiser or Headteacher. Following this meeting the appraisal process will continue as normal.

If no, or insufficient, improvement has been made over this period the teacher will be invited to a transition meeting to determine whether formal capability proceedings need to be commenced or the appraisal process remains in place .The teacher may be assisted by a trade union representative or work colleague and will have at least 5 working days notice of the meeting.

This is the RMET equivalent (in place less than three years after conversion):

Feedback

Within the Trust, employees will receive constructive feedback on their performance throughout the year and ideally within 24 hours after a formal observation has taken place (where applicable) or other evidence has come to light. Feedback should highlight particular areas of strength (what went well) as well as any areas that need attention (even better if). Often this can resolve issues without the need for any formal action.

Feedback will also be sought from relevant employees within the Academy. For example, a teacher may be asked to provide feedback on a teaching assistant who works with them. Where there are concerns about any aspects of an employee's performance the appraiser will meet the appraisee to:

give clear feedback about the nature and seriousness of the concerns;

give the appraisee the opportunity to comment and discuss the concerns and to agree a follow up observation if appropriate;

find out if there are any issues (both in or outside of work) that are affecting their performance that the appraiser can assist with or provide support;

make clear what improvements need to be made and how this can be achieved;

agree any support (for example coaching, mentoring, training, structured observations, observing others in a similar role etc), that willbe provided to help address those specific concerns;

make clear how, and by when, the appraiser will review progress either by setting new and clear objectives which will be assessed during the review period or by revising current objectives, allowing sufficient time for improvement; the amount of time for this would reflect the seriousness of the concerns. This will be an informal review period and will be confirmed in a Support Plan;

explain the implications and process if no - or insufficient - improvement is made during the informal review period i.e. the application of the capability policy.

This meeting can happen at any time during the appraisal period. It is designed to be a supportive meeting to address issues early to avoid the matter escalating, giving the employee the opportunity to improve. At the meeting, the appraiser will present evidence collected that indicates that the employee's performance is not up to the required standard. There is no right to be accompanied to this meeting. Although this is part of an informal process, a note of the meeting will be made and a copy given to the employee so that they are clear about the support they will be given, what improvements need to be made and the timescales.

An informal review period will follow this meeting; the length will be determined by the appraiser based on the individual circumstances of the situation but it should not be unduly long. During the informal review period, regular meetings should take place to ensure progress is being made.

At the end of this informal review period when progress is reviewed, if the appraiser is satisfied that the employee has made, or is making sufficient improvement, the appraisal process will continue as normal, with any remaining issues continuing to be addressed through that process. If no or insufficient improvement is being made, then the appraiser may decide to start a formal capability process (see RMET Capability Procedure for further detail).

So, spot the differences:

1. The LA Policy has an emphasis on support and guidance. The RMET policy refers to concerns about performance.

2. There is no right to trade union representation in the RMET policy

3. No time scale for the review in the RMET policy. LA policy: 'a minimum of six weeks', RMET policy: 'not unduly long.'

The whole RMET process is designed to speed up a move to a formal capability procedure rather than to support a teacher experiencing difficulties. Don't be fooled by fine words; by becoming part of a multi academy trust you immediately make it easier for an employer to worsen your conditions of service. And that is exactly what they will do.

Dozens of staff leave Leicester schools following conversions to academy, Leicester Mercury, 28th May 2018

Almost 100 staff have left an academy trust in Leicester over the past few years.

Some 43 employees have left Odyssey Educational Trust since April 2016, when Humberstone Infants and Junior schools became an academy.

The figure includes teachers and support staff at the Main Street school, which is looked after by Odyssey.

A Freedom of Information request also shows that 54 staff have resigned their positions at Humberstone Juniors since September 2013 - following its academy conversion.

Overall, 97 have left during the last five years.

The schools' website shows that, between them, the schools have around 60 essential staff.

Continuity

The opinion of one former member of staff was that there was a "poor atmosphere at the school.

The amount of staff that left because of this meant the turnover was alarming," they added.

Another former member of staff said: There was no continuity for some children.

They added that some classes had several teachers because of the number of resignations.

A Facebook post from one parent whose child attends one of the schools, said the pupil had four different teachers over a short period and others were dropping like flies.

The parent said the pupil's new teacher did not know who he was and that the child was coming home from school in tears every day.

I'm not happy at all, stated the parent's publiclyviewable post. The executive head teacher of both schools is Annemarie Williams. She is also the chief executive of Odyssey.

NEU's View

We all know that successful schools have a mixture of experienced staff and new staff with fresh ideas. This balance is maintained by valuing the staff that you have while providing exciting opportunities for new staff. Humberstone Junior Academy and Humberstone Infant Academy have demonstrated that they have succeeded in doing neither.

A Department for Education spokesperson said that the Regional Schools Commissioner is monitoring the situation at Humberstone Infant and Junior Schools.

Staffing is a matter for the schools themselves but if there's any indication that pupils' education is being adversely affected we would not hesitate to take action, he added

 

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