The inequalities of ‘Equal’ Pay Reviews

28 Jul

By Martin Hodge, Professional Officer (Policy & Research Services) for August 2016 Your Voice

The outlook is bleak in the North East and the East Midlands as the last few local authorities complete their Equal Pay Reviews. Given that this process started in 1997 (and amended in 2004) you would have hoped that those authorities that waited would have been able to learn the lessons of those that went before, but over the last 15 years we have seen the same things time and again. And things are not looking bright in Derby and Durham.

It is important to recognise the key issues.

  • The local authority (LA) is technically the employer, but has little jurisdiction as each school controls its own recruitment and staffing.
  • Local authorities are under pressure to ensure that all employees are paid equally for roles which have been evaluated as comparable. (Because of equal pay issues, Birmingham City Council had to sell the National Exhibition Centre (NEC).)
  • Education budgets are being cut across the board.
  • Each school is a mini business with its own targets, budget and governing board.

None of this matters if you are a teaching assistant (TA) in Derby City who stands to lose your home because of a 25% reduction in salary, thanks to a combination of:

  • job evaluation downgrading;
  • a move to a 37 hour working week, effectively making you (on a 32.5 hour week) part-time;
  • term-time only employment, further reducing your salary by 15%.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Derby City Council’s own report concludes that it has still failed the equality test.

TAs’ support immeasurable

The impact of TAs and other classroom support staff is immeasurable – highly-skilled and flexible support dedicated to the school and the children. No teacher who has had the support of an effective TA wishes to work without one. No headteacher who has reaped the benefits of smaller group sizes, accelerated learning, extended provision and increased learning opportunities wants them to cease. The fact remains, though, that TAs are feeling undervalued and unappreciated.

Understandably, the TAs blame the headteachers – who are blaming the local authority – which is blaming the Government… but what can be done?

Voice has been a part of a national campaign to raise the profile of TAs, including through the creation of national standards. General Secretary Deborah Lawson was ‘furious’ about the Government’s decision not to proceed with the standards: ‘The message this gives is alarming. It is treating teaching assistants as second class citizens by denying them the professional recognition they deserve’[A copy of the draft standards is available here.]

In many Derby and Durham schools, headteachers themselves have been standing up for their TAs and trying to minimise the impact of the Equal Pay Review by offering additional hours. The heads have no additional funds to support this, but understand the huge value of their TAs and the extra that they give to their school.

Sadly, not all schools are doing this and not all TAs are being treated the same, and this is just another example of inequality across the local authority.

Voice is committed to standing up for TAs and supporting them to achieve the recognition and remuneration they deserve, but for now it seems that whatever is offered is just making it worse.   TA Helen Voss commented that ‘there are many moments to make me smile’, but the Equal Pay Review is one thing guaranteed to put a dampener on even the most ardent optimist.

Do let us know your views and experiences…

TAs

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6 Responses to “The inequalities of ‘Equal’ Pay Reviews”

  1. Tina Mills 28. Jul, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

    I started as a teaching assistant 20 years ago and have worked my way up to HLTA, I couldn’t do my job without the excellent, highly trained professionals who support my work in class and nor could the teachers. Gone are the days when the ta just cleaned pots and heard pupils read, they do a professional job for a pittance of a wage. It is about time they were recognised by the government and the media for the difference they make in a class.

  2. Patrick Timms 18. Aug, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    I would very much like to engage with the Union on this topic. I have accumulated a great many resources and materials over the past four years and believe I could help to make the case for change here. I believe it’s possible to lay out an integrated strategy to address not just these issues, but wider issues within the public sector at the same time. That would make it an issue of sufficient scale to draw the Government’s attention. Many thanks for your article!

  3. Richard Fraser 18. Aug, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    Equal pay affects other support staff as well as TAs, including, for example, IT staff (http://blog.voicetheunion.org.uk/?p=13082)

  4. Patricia Simpson 18. Aug, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

    I have worked in education for 26 yrs I had to spend 2 yrs at college full time to gain NNEB qualification to enable me to work in school. I have worked for 25yrs supporting additional need children in main stream school. That was until last year when the child I supported was moved to special ed. The head said he wanted me to stay as I had skills that he could use. Ok I stayed but what he did was down grade me to T2 level a drop of over £3000. I’m still asked to step in when support staff are off sick which is often , I must say I was never off when I was supporting children. I have only 2 yrs until I retire so my lower wage will affect my pension after all these years of hard dedicated work. Is a joke

  5. Elizabeth Hodges 08. Sep, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

    As well as National Standards, there need to be National Conditions to promote equality in working conditions for support staff. Whilst having every sympathy with the difficulties of staff highlighted in the article, I was fascinated by the changes resulting in loss of salary:for 12 years of working as a TA and HLTA, myself and colleagues were always paid term- time only and treated as part-timers. When the Equal Pay Review came up a couple of years ago, a lot of staff were down-graded. As an HLTA I came out about 67p a month better off and the initially subtle feeling of my job being down-graded had already begun. I left my employment last year, when the increasing pressure became too much to juggle with caring for elderly relatives. Since then, other staff, (mostly now ex-staff)talk of changes to their contracts, being interviewed for their own jobs with changed hours and generally encouraged to leave in favour of less experienced and ‘cheaper’ staff, with redundancy, if they stuck it out. With other bases already covered, it would seem this was the last resort to balance the books for our local authority.

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