Frequently Asked Questions
Heads of department in my school have been directed to complete the school Self Evaluation Form (SEF). Do they have to do this?
The data required to complete the SEF should be already be readily available to the school administration and they should be able to populate the SEF with the necessary information. The only role for heads of department should be to check the draft SEF to ensure the information is accurate.
CO1. I work in a school that has been placed in a category of concern by the local authority
You can refuse to be observed by the local authority. The local authority has a right to enter the school but does not have a statutory right to observe teachers.
CO2. Does the limit on classroom observation apply to learning walks, pupil tracking and other such arrangements?
Yes. You should only be observed in accordance with the observation detailed in your performance management planning statement and the joint NASUWT performance management/appraisal checklist. You should not, therefore, agree to any other observations whatever they are called.
CO3. When does a learning walk become an observation?
The NASUWT believes that learning walks are observations whatever else they may be called and therefore are covered by the instruction on classroom observation.
CO4. Do drop-ins count as observations?
CO5. I work for a local authority as a member of a Behaviour Support team. Part of my role is observing pupils with specific behavioural issues in their classroom settings. The reports I write are based on my observations of the child not the teacher. Will NASUWT members refuse to have me in their classroom as a result of the national action instructions on the limit on classroom observation?
If the request for your support has been done professionally then the headteacher should have been in discussion with the class teacher and agreed with them the appropriate strategy for supporting a particular pupil in their class.
The teacher’s professional judgment will have been taken into account and the class teacher would be clear on the purpose of the visit, when it would take place, what its focus would be and how any recommendations or report was to be recorded. In these circumstances it is unlikely that any objection would be raised by a teacher about you carrying out your role.
The only problem which may arise is where the teacher has had a visit imposed on them and they are unsure of its purpose.
CO6. How much notice should be given for classroom observation?
Every school in England should have a performance management/appraisal policy on which the governors have sought to reach agreement with the NASUWT.The policy must conform to the NASUWT performance management/appraisal joint checklist.
That policy should set out the protocol for classroom observations, including when and how notice will be given. This classroom observation protocol should be the NASUWT protocol.
CO7. In our school we have a system of peer observation for professional development purposes. These are not formal observations, although we do have to complete a proforma which is logged and monitored by an Assistant Headteacher. Are these covered by the national instructions on classroom observation?
Where a teacher believes that they would benefit from either being observed by a colleague of their choice or from observing a colleague of their choice (peer observation) and the outcome of the observation is simply a matter of professional discussion between the colleagues who have elected to be involved in this would not be covered by the national action instructions.
However, if the School has imposed a system of peer observations which are recorded and logged and fed into a monitoring process then these would be viewed as formal observations and would be covered by the national instructions.
CO8. I have a student/trainee teacher assigned to me as observation of myself and other colleagues is part of their training and development. Can observation of staff by student teachers continue?
Yes. Observing more experienced colleagues is an important part of a student/trainee teacher’s development. In addition their programme of observation and the focus and purpose of the observation should have been agreed with the teachers who will be involved.
CO9. Can governors observe teachers?
No. Regardless of the industrial action, NASUWT believes it is inappropriate for governors to observe teachers teaching. Under the national action instructions members cannot be observed teaching by governors.
CO10. My headteacher has brought in a person from an outside agency to provide advice on learning strategies for a pupil with SEN. The intention is that they will monitor me and the pupil. Is that appropriate under the national action instructions on classroom observation?
The first issue to be considered is who has generated the request for external support. If this has been done by the Headteacher, without any reference to you as the child’s teacher, then there are concerns about your professional judgement as the person working on a daily basis with the pupil not having been taken into account.
If outside support and advice has been obtained in a professional manner, then the presence of external advice and support would have been discussed with you and you would have been party to any decision to engage external support and advice and the identification of the need for the person concerned to visit the classroom to see the pupil during lessons. You would be clear on the purpose of the visit, when it would take place, what its focus would be and how any recommendations would be recorded. There should be no suggestion that any report would be written about you and certainly the purpose should not be about observing you or your performance.
If you have been party to agreeing and setting up the arrangements then there should be no problem.
If this visit is being imposed on you, then it would be covered by the national action instructions.
CO11. Can members be observed by pupils?
Teachers are not required to agree and must not agree to be observed by pupils. This is covered by the national action instructions. The NASUWT has provided comprehensive guidance on this issue in our guidance on student voice.
CO12. My performance management planning statement records all the observation I will be having during the year, this is less than three observations totalling three hours. Do I have to have additional observations up to the limit?
No. you should only be observed in accordance with your performance management planning. There is no requirement for teachers to be observed up to the limit.
CO12. I have been asked as a subject leader to conduct ‘drop ins’ on other colleagues which are not part of performance management. Should I continue to do these?
No. This is specifically covered by the action instructions.
CO13. My school is proposing to undertake departmental reviews. As part of the review classroom observation of the teachers in the department is planned. Is this acceptable under the national action short of strike action instructions on classroom observation?
There is nothing in the national action instructions that would prevent a departmental review taking place. However, there are aspects of the national instructions which cover issues which may arise as a result of the departmental review. Members for example can participate in discussions with those conducting the review. However, any meetings must be held in accordance with the national action instructions on the school calendar and must not encroach upon lunch breaks or PPA time.
With regard to classroom observation, if the departmental review was raised at the time that your performance management planning statement was discussed and was planned as part of the classroom observation agreed in your planning statement and it will be carried out by a qualified teacher, it can go ahead. However, if this is additional to the observation agreed in the planning statement you should not agree to this. If information on teachers’ classroom practice is required for the review, there is nothing to prevent the observations which have already been conducted as part of your performance management being used to inform the review without the need for any additional observation.
CO14. My headteacher is organising a mock Ofsted inspection and says that all staff will be having additional classroom observations as part of that. Is this covered by the national action instructions?
Yes. Members must not participate in mock Ofsted inspections.
CO15. My school is in special measures, does this mean that the teachers in the school should be having additional classroom observation?
No. The first thing to determine is why the school has been placed in special measures. If for example the focus of the concerns was school leadership then there would be no reason why the classroom observation of teachers would increase. If the Ofsted inspection identified concerns about individual teacher’s performance then this would be addressed through the performance management observations agreed at the planning meeting for the teacher, or, if the issue were of such seriousness that capability procedures were being pursued then the amount of observation required would be the part of the support strategy discussed with the teacher and their union representative as part of the implementation of the capability procedure.
Simply increasing the classroom observation of teachers in response to special measures is meaningless. It is not quantity of classroom observation that makes a difference but quality.
The quality of performance management observations should be able to address any of the issues.
CO16. It has been proposed in my school that members of the governing should be visiting classrooms and observing lessons. Is this acceptable?
No. There is absolutely no reason why governors should be observing teachers as part of any process in a school. Members should refuse to be observed by governors for any purpose.
Some schools seek to establish a system where governors can visit classrooms as a way of getting to know how the school works. The NASUWT believes that this is unnecessary. Contact should be made immediately with the NASUWT for further advice and support if such proposals are made or such a system is being adopted by the school.
C1. Does the no cover instruction mean that I should never cover even though STPCD makes reference to rarely cover?
Yes. The instructions are saying no cover at all because the term rarely is being widely abused in schools. Rarely should have resulted in teachers not covering except in the most exceptional circumstances which could not have reasonably been foreseen. Exceptional circumstances would not be someone phones in sick or someone is called out to a meeting. The NASUWT action is therefore going back to the basic intention of the contractual provision and enforcing that by a ban on cover.
C2. I have been asked to cover for a colleague who has phoned in sick today despite the headteacher being aware that I am following the NASUWT action short of strike action instructions. Do I have to cover?
No. You must refuse to cover and point out that you are not only following the NASUWT’s lawful action instructions but the terms of your contract. If the headteacher persists then contact the NASUWT for further advice.
C3. I do not have a tutor group and I am often asked to cover for absent colleagues. Should I continue to do this in the light of the national action instructions?
No. Unless you have a contract to wholly or mainly provide cover for absent colleagues then this is cover and you should not be doing this.
C4. I am a member of the senior management team, paid on the leadership spine, my headteacher says that I am required to cover for absent colleagues. Is that correct?
No. The NASUWT no cover instruction also applies.
C5. Pupils in my school are going on an educational visit. The headteacher is proposing to alter the timetable so that the pupils not included in the visit can be taught by staff not accompanying pupils on the visit. The headteacher is claiming that the change to the timetable is being made for sound educational reasons. Does this constitute cover?
Yes. Absence occurs when a person who has been timetabled to take a particular class or group is away due to not just illness but also for reasons of internal and external activities.
On the issue of changes to the timetable, the NASUWT instructions make clear that the calendar and timetable should be produced in consultation in agreement with NASUWT and that changes should be planned well in advance.
Schools may vary the pattern of the timetable in advance or make changes for sound educational reasons but such changes should be infrequent.
Appropriate arrangements should be included in the timetable for both staff and pupils who are on visits and those who are not and whatever timetabling pattern the school may use the fact is that it is the absence of the person who has been timetable to take the class or group which is the trigger for cover. Therefore, members should not cover for staff who are absent due to accompanying educational visits whether the timetable is changed or not.
C6. My school will be collapsing the 6th Form timetable for a taster day and teachers who would normally teach the 6th Form at that time are being asked to give taster sessions to the pupils. For some teachers this would be in time that would normally be their non-contact time. Is this acceptable under the action short of strike action instructions?
The first thing which has to be considered is has this taster day been discussed and agreed with the staff and calendared in advance?
The next issue which has to be considered is the non-contact time PPA time and if so have arrangements been agreed with the teachers affected that this time would be credited at another time during the week?
If the answer to the questions above is no then the NASUWT members should not take part and should teach their normal lessons. Contact should be made with your National Executive member to discuss approaches to the headteacher to secure that arrangements such as this are agreed with staff in advance, put in the school calendar and that any PPA time, which is contractually guaranteed time which cannot be used for any other activity, is credited.
LS1. I am a headteacher member, does the lunchtime supervision instruction apply to me?
Headteachers and members of the school leadership team are also entitled to their reasonable break during the day. Headteachers do have a responsibility to ensure that they have made appropriate arrangements for the supervision of pupils during the break. This does not mean that they have to do this themselves.
LEADERSHIP, MANAGEMENT AND PAYMENT
LM1. I believe that the extra responsibilities I have been asked to undertake merit a Teaching and Learning Responsibility payment. What are the criteria against which I should test my responsibilities?
Below is an extract from the contractual provisions of the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document and the relevant guidance from the same Document. You may find it helpful to contact your NASUWT local association or National Executive member to discuss your job description with them in the context of the information below.
TLR Criteria – Extract from the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document
Before awarding a TLR the relevant body must be satisfied that the teacher’s duties include a significant responsibility that is not required of all classroom teachers and that-
(a) is focused on teaching and learning;
(b) requires the exercise of a teacher’s professional skills and judgement;
(c) requires the teacher to lead, manage and develop a subject or curriculum area; or to lead and manage pupil development across the curriculum;
(d) has an impact on the educational progress of pupils other than the teacher’s assigned classes or groups of pupils; and
(e) involves leading, developing and enhancing the teaching practice of other staff.
In addition, before awarding a TLR1, the relevant body must be satisfied that the significant responsibility includes line management responsibility for a significant number of people.
TLRs may be awarded for undertaking a sustained responsibility in the context of the school’s staffing structure that is needed to ensure continued delivery of high-quality teaching and learning. Posts to which TLRs are attached must meet the criterion and factors which are set out in the STPCD. The monetary values of TLRs must also be determined within the parameters of the STPCD.
Members in schools not covered by the STPCD should use the above as a benchmark against which to secure additional payment.
LM2. My headteacher says that if I am paid for my leadership and management responsibilities I am not entitled to any time. Is this correct?
No. Your headteacher is incorrect.
I1. Can I refuse to invigilate SATs and practice SATs?
Yes. You should refuse to invigilate SATs and you should also refuse to invigilate ‘practice’ SATs if they are being conducted as a trial run for the actual SATs.
I2. During the mock exam week, during gained time, can I refuse to cover the classes of other teachers who have been asked to undertake other duties?
Yes. This is cover and is covered by the national action instructions.
I3. During the mock exam week, during gained time, can I refuse to undertake the supervision of pupils in the dining area?
This constitutes cover and so is covered by the no cover national action instruction.
P1. In addition to the allocation of PPA time, I have a number of non-contact periods which are not designated as PPA time, do I have to cover during that time?
No the action short of strike action covers any cover for an absent colleague. It doesn’t matter what time is allocated for cover or whether prior to the action this time were used for cover.
The only exception to this is where a teacher has a contract which is wholly or mainly specifically to cover.
P2. If teachers get more than 10% PPA time, can they be directed to do other duties in the ‘additional’ time?
No. If this time is designated as PPA time then they cannot be directed to use it for other things.
P3. Should teachers lose PPA time if the timetable is suspended for the day eg ‘Discovery Day’?
Teachers are entitled to a minimum of 10% of their timetabled teaching time for PPA and therefore if this is lost because the school has arranged an activity such as this where the whole timetable has been suspended then the school should provide the time.
SCHOOL CALENDAR AND TIMETABLE
SC1. Do the national action instructions mean that I should only be attending one meeting per week?
Under the provisions of the national action instructions, members should only be attending those meetings which are on the school calendar. The calendar should have been the subject of consultation and agreement with the NASUWT. It is the calendar which determines the number of meetings members should attend. The NASUWT has issued clear guidance on what should be in the calendar.
V1. Will extra-curricular activities undertaken by teachers on a voluntary basis be affected by the industrial action?
The NASUWT industrial action is not aimed at disrupting pupils. Therefore where members have volunteered to take extra-curricular activities the action will not prevent members continuing to participate.
V2. In my school teachers have been forced to participate in extra-curricular activities including extra tuition for groups of pupils and detention supervision. Will the action instruction enable those teachers to withdraw from these activities?
Some members have advised the NASUWT that they have been coerced and directed to take extra-curricular activities. They can therefore refuse in accordance with the provisions in the NASUWT national action instructions.
V3. Now that the NASUWT action short of strike action been escalated does this mean that after school clubs, sporting activities, concerts and other voluntary activities have to be cancelled?
No. Providing these are genuine voluntary activities that members have freely elected to do, the NASUWT is not expecting members to withdraw from these activities as part of the escalated action short of strike action.
ACTION SHORT OF STRIKE ACTION GENERAL QUESTIONS
G1. Should members be asked by the headteacher what action short of strike action they will be taking?
No. The employer has received a formal notice of the action instructions and a copy of them so they are well aware of what action members will be taking.
Asking individuals could be viewed as harassment or an attempt to intimidate a member of a union taking lawful action.
G2. Members of the leadership team in my school are being asked to compile information on other teachers about what action they will be taking. Is this appropriate?
No. The Employer has been fully informed of the action instructions and they should plan accordingly. Such activities as questioning individual members of staff could be deemed to be harassment and an attempt to intimidate. If you are approached for the information simply refer the person concerned to the NASUWT website and to the notice of action given to the employer. If they persist contact the NASUWT immediately for advice.
G3. I have joined the NASUWT since the ballot took place, am I eligible to be involved in the escalated action short of strike action?
Yes, providing you are in one of the categories of members to whom the action instructions apply.
G4. Is the NASUWT action just about pensions?
No. Pensions are of course an important issue, but NASUWT has listened to its members, who have told us that their number one concern is the burden of excessive workload. Members have told us their deep concerns about attacks on pay and conditions of service and increasing concerns about job security. The NASUWT action covers all of these issues, including pensions.
G5. I work in an academy/free school, what rights do I have if the school insists that I cannot take action short of strike action?
No employer is entitled to prevent a worker from taking industrial action that is the result of a lawful ballot. With the exception of the police, armed forces and prison officers, all working people, including teachers, have a legal right to take industrial action, and no employer has the power to remove that right.
The NASUWT would be more than happy to provide you with confidential advice and support and, if you agree, support you in representation to your employer. Please contact your NASUWT Regional Centre or National Executive Member. Contact details are on the NASUWT website.
G6. In view of the economic problems the country faces, how can the NASUWT justify industrial action?
Teachers did not cause the economic crisis.
Attacking teachers, damaging their morale and motivation and reducing investment in schools is no way to secure economic recovery.
Many of the changes being made which are worsening teachers’ conditions of service and increasing workload are nothing to do with the economic crisis. In many respects the deficit is being used by the government to make a whole series of ideological changes.
In addition, the NASUWT has set out to government that there is an alternative to economic austerity, cuts to public spending and the privatisation of public services. The NASUWT ten point plan can be found on www.nasuwt.org.uk/10pointplan.
Research evidence confirms that half of teachers would quit the profession altogether if economic conditions improved. The only way to avert a recruitment and retention crisis in teaching is by investment and action by government to secure good working conditions, decent pensions and stable employment. Education is critically important to the country’s economic recovery.
G7. Isn’t industrial action likely to upset parents and the public?
The NASUWT industrial action strategy is designed to be pupil, parent and public friendly – freeing teachers to do what parents and the public expects of them, focus on teaching and learning.
The NASUWT’s rationale for calling an industrial action is that we want to ensure the provision of high-quality education. The action short of strike action is pupil, parent and public friendly – nothing in the action short of strike action will damage children’s education. The action short of strike action removes the tasks and burdens from teachers which distract them from teaching and learning.
In addition, strike action will be utilised sparingly only where it is necessary and appropriate to do so.
G8. Is the NASUWT campaigning with other unions?
The NASUWT is affiliated to the TUC and is working with other affiliated unions across the trade union movement.
G9. Teachers in some schools have been told that the school does not recognise the NASUWT and therefore members cannot take part in industrial action. Is that correct?
No. Whether or not your employer recognises NASUWT is irrelevant. The dispute is with the Ministers of the Crown. The relevant legislation confirms that a dispute with a Minister of the Crown will be treated as a dispute with the employer where the dispute relates to matters which cannot be settled without the minister exercising a power conferred on him/her by legislation. Recognition of the union does not alter this position.
G10. I am a supply teacher, eligible to participate in the ballot. How will the industrial action affect my work?
If you work on daily supply the national industrial action will not prevent you from working normally.
If you are on a long term placement in a school covering for example a maternity leave or long term sick leave, you would be able to participate with colleagues in the action short of strike action.
Supply teachers are likely to have an increase in work as a result of teachers based in schools refusing to cover as part of the action short of strike action. Supply teachers would be able to accept such employment without being in breach of the action.
G11. What is a school session?
The Education (school day and school year) England Regulations 1999 state that each day on which a school opens shall be divided into two sessions with a break in the middle of the day. The sessions are the times when the school expects pupils to be present.
G12. What rights do members have if they participate in industrial action?
Some employers may take a hostile view of industrial action, including threats to deduct salary. There is absolutely no reason why they should consider participation in action to be inappropriate or unprofessional.
There is a legal entitlement for teachers and other workers to be engaged in lawful industrial action. The NASUWT took detailed legal advice to ensure that its ballot and action meet the provisions of the legislation and therefore members are protected by the lawful ballot.
If your employer makes hostile comments or seeks to put pressure on you about your participation in industrial action you should advise your employer that:
• you have a legal and democratic right to ballot and take action;
• the action is national and is nothing personal to them as an employer but is the only vehicle by which the trade dispute with the Minister of the Crown can be addressed and resolved;
• the action is focusing on supporting teaching and learning
The NASUWT will strongly defend any members who are threatened as a result of participating in industrial action.
G13. My school is in special measures, is it exempt from the action short of strike action instructions?
No. The action short of strike action instructions are about working to raise standards. Schools in special measures need even more to focus on supporting teaching and learning and therefore the instructions apply. If there are any particular issues about the application of the instructions then further advice and support should be taken from your NASUWT local association or National Executive.
NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHERS
Do the action instructions on planning also apply to Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs)?
The instruction not to submit lesson plans to members of the senior management team or any member of the senior management team applies to all members, including NQTs. As the NASUWT action instructions make clear, planning is a key aspect of teachers’ professional practice and is essential to securing high quality teaching and learning. The aim of the action instruction on planning is to address the wholly unnecessary practice of teachers, including NQTs, being required to submit written lesson plans. The rationale for this instruction is set out in more detail in the guidance published by the NASUWT on the national action short of strike action instructions
Notwithstanding the applicability of the instruction on planning to NQTs, the NASUWT is aware of the distinctive nature of the requirements on NQTs to be able to demonstrate at the end of their statutory induction that they are able to meet the Teachers’ Standards on sustained basis in a context where they are employed as qualified teachers. Approaches to the planning of teaching and learning may therefore represent a legitimate focus for discussions with NQTs about their progress and achievements during the course of their induction. Therefore, where NQTs and colleagues responsible for providing support and guidance for the induction process agree that induction review meetings should consider issues related to planning, it is reasonable for evidence of NQTs planning to be made available to support professional dialogue about this aspect of practice. Further information on NQTs’ rights and entitlements in relation to induction and advice on good practice in relation to reviewing NQTs’ progress can be found in the NASUWT’s Induction Planner.