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Key considerations in school staffing restructures

After the strangest and challenging year in Education it is likely that your focus has been on COVID survival and not reviewing your staffing structure, however the time has come to undertake a review for 21/22. The review will ensure your staffing structure is relevant to the school’s current needs and priorities and its future vision, strategy and direction.

By Pam Mason on 27 Apr 2021

After the strangest and challenging year in Education it is likely that your focus has been on COVID survival and not reviewing your staffing structure, however the time has come to undertake a review for 21/22. The review will ensure your staffing structure is relevant to the school’s current needs and priorities and its future vision, strategy and direction.

The Department for Education (DfE) has published the funding it will allocate to local authorities for mainstream schools in 2021-22 based on the National Funding Formula (NFF) for schools.

These are provisional and notional funding allocations. They are subject to revision and are not necessarily what schools will actually receive. It is likely that most schools will have a reduced allocation, this on top of the significant increases in employment costs, will be felt by thousands of schools and academies in England and Wales and for many, this will involve making difficult decisions about future staffing requirements.

These ongoing cuts and additional expenses mean that in most restructuring exercises redundancies are likely to feature more heavily. Any restructuring exercise, particularly those where redundancies are proposed, can be a challenging and time-consuming process for all concerned. To minimise disruption and to avoid costly Employment Tribunal claims, it is important that staffing changes are managed in a well-planned, fair and legally compliant way. Changes to the staffing structure must take into account employment and education laws, national terms and conditions of service, any relevant school policy and ACAS guidance. Forward planning is essential.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS: HOW TO PLAN FOR A SCHOOL STAFFING RESTRUCTURE

Establish people to lead and oversee the restructuring process The headteacher/principal is best placed to understand the school’s needs and priorities and will therefore play a key role in putting together the change proposals and leading on the restructure. The appointment of a project manager can also be useful to ensure key milestones are met, this is usually a Business Manager or senior support staff.

Ultimate responsibility for authorising a new staffing structure lies with the Governing Body/Trust Board, and so a first step will involve ensuring decision-making powers have been delegated to the headteacher and an appropriate sub-committee of the Governing Body. Having a Restructure Committee will make it easier for decisions to be made and will ensure that governors with no involvement are available in the event of staff appeals or grievances.

The Restructure Committee will play a significant part in overseeing the restructuring process, which will include approving the change proposals, considering the outcomes of consultation and approving the school’s final proposals before implementation.

What is best for the school? Schools should take the opportunity to carry out a thorough review of their existing structure and to design a new structure that reflects what is best for the school in the long term, regardless of the individuals currently in post. Schools must be mindful of limitations posed by the budget, pay policy and conditions of service, but should think about their priorities:

  • What are the broad objectives and principles the school is trying to achieve?
  • Does the new structure align with the school’s future vision and future education requirements?
  • Does it focus on teaching and learning and will teaching provision and outcomes for pupils improve?

Prepare a business case and action plan The school’s business case should include details of the changes proposed: the school’s rationale, reasons and drivers for the change; and financial implications and any measures already taken. It should also give details of the numbers and type of staff to be affected, information about changes to job roles and job descriptions, and confirmation of whether any redundancies are proposed.

The business case should be sent to staff and trade unions with a proposed timetable, action plan and structure charts. The action plan should include the school’s consultation proposals and outline the school’s approach where redundancies are proposed including details about redundancy payments, voluntary severance terms, arrangements for salary safeguarding or pay protection and any support to be offered to redundant staff.

Be clear on costs The costs associated with a restructure exercise can be substantial and so costing the revised structure will be an integral part of the process. The cost of statutory, enhanced redundancy payments, voluntary severance arrangements and payments in lieu of notice (if relevant) will also need to be included.

Costs can rise significantly where there are pension cost implications. Obtaining early advice is recommended to assess financial burden. Think Wellbeing Any organisational change is likely to create a high level of anxiety for the whole staff team, especially now staff are dealing with COVID related life challenges. It would be highly supportive to provide staff with different levels of wellbeing interventions, these could include group resilience coaching, change management support or individual counselling. Ensure these interventions are set up and can be provided at the point consultation begins.

Consider timings and ensure meaningful consultation Ensure sufficient time is given to carry out the process fairly and reasonably, taking into account; the extent of the proposed changes, whether redundancies are necessary, the number and categories of staff affected, statutory consultation periods (if they apply) and statutory and contractual notice periods.

Schools should engage formally in meaningful consultation with relevant trade unions/teacher associations and with all staff affected (including those not currently attending school due to maternity leave, sickness, secondment, etc).

Have a fair redundancy selection process. There are a number of elements to a fair selection process. This will include deciding on the correct ‘pools’ of staff for selection and ensuring that a range of selection criteria, which are objective and non-discriminatory, are applied by a suitably appointed selection panel. The selection criteria will usually be applied using a points or scoring system, via a selection matrix. It is important that no account is taken of any disability or pregnancy related absences.

Schools are strongly advised to take HR advice in relation to any proposed selection process, since it is often the redundancy selection exercise which is central to unfair dismissal and Equality Act claims following redundancy dismissals.

The HR Helpdesk is here to support as much as possible during this challenging time, please get in touch at hrpeople@oneeducation.co.uk for further support and guidance.

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