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unionised members of staff

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by strugglingHoD, Apr 3, 2019.

  1. strugglingHoD

    strugglingHoD New commenter


    I have a couple of members of staff who whenever i ask to do anything "well, the union says...."

    I've had them bring union handbooks to meetings and a bit ago we had ofsted "well, the union says we don't have to do anything special for ofsted, so I'm not doing it". one is an NQT

    It's putting me on edge, because i feel i can't approach or ask them for anything to "go the extra mile", or if i am to challenge them in their job, i have to do it in a particular way for fear of getting a union leader come down on me.

    Anyone have any advice for what to do/how to handle them?
  2. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    "What the union says" is not valid grounds to refuse to carry out a management instruction. Much of what unions say is their wish list of what they'd like to happen, not the law and the rules actually say.

    It's different though if they are in a union that is undertaking ASOSA industrial action and therefore in an industrial dispute with the school.

    I suggest you discuss this with your SLT.

    Mind you, it's not only ASOSA unions that say you shouldn't do anything special for OFSTED - so do OFSTED! Just about everyone says that (except headteachers trapped in the headlights...)
  3. NIHistoryTeacher

    NIHistoryTeacher New commenter

    I think you have to respect the union directives but, speaking as a union rep and experienced leader it is also not an excuse to take the mick. What do you mean by 'go the extra mile? '. Often this means adding to an already heavy workload and losing work - life balance. Have you reflected on how you are making requests? Few people, especially in a unionised school, will simply accept orders that are outside the job description but will often do things above and beyond if there is a collegiate, shared approach. To be fair, it is only right that you challenge people in their roles according to the rules but that does not make them unaccountable. Informal 'chats' are often the best form of accountability. Have you developed these relationships? It sounds to me like you nerd to have a clearing the air meeting with your colleagues.
    Pomza, agathamorse, tb9605 and 2 others like this.
  4. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

    Given the ridiculous amounts of paperwork and workload for the pitiful salary, it's a shame a few more teachers aren't a bit bolshier.

    That said it's hard on you as a middle manager stuck between SLT and the people at the chalk face.
  5. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    When I was a young idealistic teacher just starting out I looked at my HoD and decided that I couldn't be bothered with all that extra effort to climb the greasy pole.

    When I was last in permanent I realised that I was doing a lot more than that hard-working HoD but my line manager was doing even more. So I bailed out into supply and am lucky that I can avoid a lot of the rubbish because of my rarity value.

    The extra workload rains down from above, The Head passes it on to the SLT who pass it on to departments and this only stops when it hits the teachers. So I'm definitely on the side of the teachers who are trying to make sh.it flow uphill again. I bet any HoD can't push it back further uphill so your advancement depends on actually dumping enough below to show you're at SLT standard.

    This is a lot more cynical than I intended, sorry. As a long-term supply I've wandered round a lot of Maths/Science departments and the HoDs are uniformly near collapse, not least because I'm very good at sh.it dodging myself.

    I don't know what solution to offer, manage to put enough pressure on your underlings and they'll clear off leaving you with supply like me who're after a lot of money for little effort. I can teach a bit though.
  6. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    That's actually the point.
  7. tb9605

    tb9605 Occasional commenter


    When I was an NQT, there was a very experienced teacher (30+ years) who was also the NASUWT rep. She's been through the directed time budget with a fine-tooth comb, and if any meeting wasn't on it, she wouldn't attend; and if a meeting was on it, she'd leave the moment the alloted time was up. This was incredibly empowering to witness as a new teacher and really gave me the confidence and strength to later say "no" to SLT (I took over from her as Union Rep and soon found myself saying "no" to the Regional Head of Acacdemies, who wanted to institute yet another mock-OfSTED... he backed down).

    Now I'm HoD, I find myself in a school chain that had a marking and feedback policy that was onerous and not-fit-for-purpose. Rather than making my department members pointlessly work themselves into the ground trying meet it, I challenged Leadership about it and they eventually let me rewrite the policy to the benefit of both staff and students. Don't get me wrong, we "go the extra mile" - lunch time revision sessions for Y11/13, special events, primary link ups, exchanges, etc. But we do so because we want to and because the relevant department members are passionate about those things, not because SLT wants to tick a box.

    So... if you can't beat them, join them - it'll probably make your life easier as you'll probably feel more confident saying "no" to management the next time SLT ask you or your department to "go the extra mile".
  8. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    From you other threads, I think your username is very apt. You do seem to be struggling to be the HOD you want to be. Your dept has some tricky characters, you haven't been a teacher very long and your SLT aren't overly helpful. Last month you were debating whether to apply for an SLT role, but by the end of the month were looking at dropping HOD completely and returning to a teacher post. You are now struggling to know how to respond to, what appear to most of us, to be perfectly reasonable responses from members of your dept.

    A move to a larger school, where you can gain experience of leadership in smaller ways, under the guidance of more experienced leaders would be a good idea. In a large school, members of a department take on all kinds of things with the ready advice and support of the HOD. Being able to do this, while watching how the HOD manages workload and staff will be eminently helpful. Very possibly you could then move up again in a few years, to a second in dept role and then to HOD when you are ready.

    This might not be what you want to hear, but all the evidence from your posts suggests you have all the potential to be a great HOD, but little of the experience or knowledge of how to go about it.
  9. strugglingHoD

    strugglingHoD New commenter

    thanks for advice.

    Been for a couple of teacher roles, but responses come back "we decided to go in a different direction...", nothing negative about my teaching or interview....but it's me and 5 NQT's....

    the management of staff has always been my struggle, as the guy who always went and volunteered for stuff and did all the extra department stuff(clubs, trips, CPD, even making the dept spreadsheets, looking for new initiatives etc.) in my old school(s), it would be great if i had one of them...or even half of one of them.

    Man management has always been my thing that i will struggle with but constantly being pushed from the top to do stuff as well and learning what is important and what is not has been something i've had to learn (a new initiative a week etc.)...but also ignoring staff who are not marking books and not doing their jobs is another challenge....and without the SLT support....

    Hell, i should just go back to industry, get paid a lot of money for sitting in a box.....
  10. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

    independent schools tend to be a bit better about hiring experienced staff.
  11. Mr_G_ICT

    Mr_G_ICT New commenter

    sounds like from what caterpillar says in the other post you made you don't know what you want, just a way out of the situation you find yourself in.....not sure what advice i can give in that situation.
  12. Robfreeman

    Robfreeman Occasional commenter

    Make three piles

    Pile one - this gets done it important to my dept and the school
    Pile two - if I receive repeated emails this will get done if not it will go into pile three.
    Pile three - no idea what this stuff is if its still in this pile in six weeks I will bin it.

    There must be give somewhere you maybe able to do everything but usually you need to prioritise.

    As for the union crew let them do their jobs if they are happy and feel supported which can take time then they may do the extras but sometimes people have a life outside of school. Is it a fight your in a position to approach now?1

    The person marking their books, why is it ?lack of time (are they a slow writer like me and even basic marking takes two hours a set easily) is the marking policy **** is the member of staff demoralised. You may be able to get them to help with the solution alternatively you may have to take a big gulp and do something you dont want to which is follow that procedure.

    The downside is your a HoD you staff think you have the power to change everything (you dont) a bad SLT will put every **** job on you and do the nasty stuff. There you are stuck in the middle just wanting to set curriculum direction, support and encourage staff and allow your dept to grow.
  13. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    don't ever ask anyone to "go the extra mile"; they already have far too much to do without that.

    more fool you! no, you shouldn't have "one of them" in your department. What you are saying is you want someone to do loads of extra, unnecessary work at the expense of their home and family life. The answer SHOULD be no! and its heartening tio hear that it is
    JohnJCazorla and agathamorse like this.
  14. Flanks

    Flanks Established commenter

    Are you in a different Union? If so that is semi unusual, as normally teachers join the dominant union at their school.

    Either way, can you not consult your own Union to find out whether they are mistaken? You don't have to say 'my colleagues say their union says this', instead cast it as, what is ok for my manager to ask me to do?

    While in some respects your colleagues are probably right, and a large part of me is glad to see them actively protecting rights that lots of people have fought hard for before then, on the other hand most teacher contracts have clauses which say 'tasks which are reasonable to do'.. you need to find out where that line is, and if you feel your team are pushing it then you should challenge them on that. Don't go too war with them, as that is always a quick way to end your career, but be prepared to be open with your team and if you feel you are making reasonable requests then it is fine.

    However, as has been said, if what you are asking is extras and extra good will, you need to respect that most teachers give good will every lesson, prep time, marking and report writing always carry time well beyond directed contractual time. If you want more than that you are not entitled to ask for it.
  15. sabram86

    sabram86 Occasional commenter

    To be honest, if they are using the union advice to prevent exploitation, then, in all honest, good luck to them.

    If something really is essential, it should be allocated time within contracted hours.
  16. PoundStretcher

    PoundStretcher New commenter

    Personally in my department I can ask staff to do the little extra but that is their choice and whatever they decide I will back them. Staff at all levels have a core responsibility and ultimately that is what they will be judged on. Staff should be challenged in their roles which are based on the core responsibilities at the level that they work at.

    I would say that you should be able to justify to your team why you want something done/actioned above and beyond the "because SLT say so". If you cannot justify it then firstly don't ask your team to do it, but secondly, raise it with your line manager in terms of asking them why and get them to justify things to you in a similar way as you would to your team.
    agathamorse likes this.
  17. purplecarrot

    purplecarrot Senior commenter

    The added extras and little extras are the sorts of things that people do when they feel valued or are interested in an area.

    From experience, people go the extra mile when they feel valued and will dig their heels in over the smallest thing when they feel their HOD is taking the **** and not valuing them.

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