Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Remodelling conundrum?

Remodelling conundrum?

While the debate in primary schools continues to revolve around PPA time, SHA members have said their top workforce reform issue is the move to TLRs. Julie Nightingale looks at alternative models for staff structures that some schools are trying out.

While most of us haven't even contemplated our Christmas shopping list, in terms of teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments and staff restructuring, December is worryingly close.

Following the government's decision to replace management allowances with TLRs, schools will have until the end of the year to consult with staff and recognised unions and to publish their revised staffing structures. They will also need to have a three-year transition plan and rationale for implementation in place.

The short timescale is just one of the concerns schools have raised about the new TLR structure. Another is defining exactly how much a job is worth within the TLR parameters.

Some have also wondered if it's a cost-cutting exercise by government (it isn't - any savings accrued as a result of restructuring stay in the school budget).

But despite these and other concerns, SHA believes the changes are an opportunity for schools to rethink the whole structure of teaching and support staff.

While adopting ready-made models is tempting, it will be important for leaders to create their own bespoke systems which meet their schools' needs in their own contexts.

Anne Welsh, former SHA president, has recent experience of a restructuring process, having carried out a full reorganisation at George Stephenson Community High School at Killingworth near Newcastle in 2000 when the local authority switched from a three to a two-tier system.

"I learned that I had to have very clear criteria for allocating what were then management allowances to different teaching posts," she recalls.

"I used the number of students taught by the department, the number of courses delivered and the number of people being managed by that head of department."

It's important to have a clear rationale for your new structure, outlining why each role is necessary, and to explain it clearly to staff, she adds. "Consult with everyone at every level and talk to them about your ideas. And listen to what they have to say."

Job descriptions

Revising job descriptions will inevitably figure prominently in revising the structure and needs to be carefully handled, Anne points out.

"It's only straightforward if the person concerned agrees to it. If not, as happened in our case last time, one of the things that I did was to advertise the new post internally so that other people could apply as well.

"With all of these things, giving people the facts about the process is the easy bit. Sometimes the implications are not clear to people until they have had time to think about it."

For extra-curricular projects and other tasks that aren't eligible for TLRs, Anne suggests a couple of options.

"If it's a young member of staff who's running the project, then you might think about moving them up the pay scale a bit faster, putting them up two points instead of one.

"Or, for something which is done outside school hours, it could be covered as a separate contract and paid separately."

Restructuring has implications for senior staff and for support staff, too, she adds.

"There are jobs being done by members of the leadership team that ultimately they will not do. Timetabling, for example, I think will be done here by non-teachers in the future.

"Support staff will also find their jobs altering. We have been adding different jobs under remodelling but we are going to have to look at that closely.

"What I notice most about their roles in four years is that they have broadened and become more flexible so I have tried to use the skills they have got and also given them opportunities for new training."

Any structure needs to be adaptable to accommodate new agendas or other demands on schools that may arise in the years ahead, Anne points out.

Creative accounting

At Charters School in Berkshire, Marcia Twelftree is planning to cut all deputy heads of year and to shift their non-teaching roles to support staff. It will help to free up £30,000 a year, which will be used to pay the support staff and for one-off payments for annual projects.

"Lots of current jobs for which people are paid management allowances won't fit the new criteria," she acknowledges. "In many cases, we're looking at job descriptions, rewriting them to highlight a dedicated learning role that the incumbent has.

"For example, we might make a deputy year head, who may not currently have direct responsibility for teaching and learning, into head of Key Stage 3 so his or her accountability for learning is explicit."

She may also hand the task of registration to non-teaching staff, though teachers would still monitor students' individual academic performance.

Some areas will demand more radical changes. There is no explicit teaching and learning responsibility that can be ascribed to running the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, for example, however valuable the experience is to pupils.

"The job description for leading the scheme will have to be written quite carefully because, although it's a valuable post, it doesn't fit the STRB criteria," she says.

One option would be to pay staff on a separate contract for work undertaken outside of school hours.

Eliminating year heads

In the past few years, Market Weighton School, a Yorkshire comprehensive, has made changes which have already geared its structure more closely to teaching and learning.

Heads of year were constantly distracted from their own teaching work by the deluge of non-teaching tasks - from meeting parents in school to attending to disruption in class and sending commendations home - so the posts have been replaced by support staff, known as key stage tutors, explains the head, John Wilson.

"Heads of year firefight and with the best will in the world their teaching suffers. This way, they aren't pulled out of a class to deal with problems.

"It's also true that some of the youngsters with the greatest difficulty in their learning have other issues that an adult can support them with. The key stage tutors have more time than heads of year would have had."

It also helps with parents. "We no longer get irate parents foaming at the mouth because no one can see them, plus key stage tutors develop a relationship with parents so it makes for a stronger home-school relationship."

The biggest worry was that students wouldn't respond to support staff the way they do to teachers but this hasn't materialised, he adds.

John is developing the structure in line with the STRB changes. He is looking at linking the key stage tutors to cover supervisors, creating an extended team, possibly with a higher level manager, to ensure that classes are covered and that behaviour is managed.

Supply teachers would join this team on the days they were called into school, which would help to cope with the irregular demand for cover.

"It is never neatly packaged as a day here and there and I always end up with no cover for three days then four people away for two days," he says.

Another idea being considered is to separate curriculum leadership from teaching and learning quality control.

"Currently a subject leader is responsible for everything in their area, science for example. I'm thinking about limiting their monitoring function and handing it over to three teachers who would act as three teaching and learning experts on quality control.

"They would do teaching and learning support work across the school on a sort of consultancy model.

"It wouldn't mean that subject leaders do no monitoring because they should retain responsibility for performance management and need to observe and feed back.

"This raises lots of questions, but it is a starting point."

Human factor

All three heads are broadly positive about the changes, seeing them as an opportunity to rethink the way their staff are deployed.

Nevertheless, staff are not pawns on a chess board who can be shifted around impersonally.

Anne Welsh warns against underestimating the very real human factors at work here, particularly if some people are likely to find themselves out of pocket once the three-year period in which their salaries are safeguarded has expired.

"It's important not to underplay how difficult it could be to manage," she emphasises. "It will have to be handled sensitively and people will get upset, there's no doubt about it."

In the long run, though, the reward for staff will be increased job satisfaction and the knowledge that their skills are having the maximum impact on teaching and learning.

© 2017 Association of School and College Leaders