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Report on Way Forward Project welcomed 24 April 2007

THE Department of Education is consulting its education support staff on proposals to address a small number of outstanding issues in relation to its Way Forward for Education Support Staff Project.

The purpose of the Way Forward Project was to achieve a single, transparent, grading, pay and career structure for the Department of Education’s valued education support staff.

This has addressed the unsatisfactory situation whereby education support staff had historically been employed on a wide variety of different terms and conditions of service and pay, working varying hours per week and weeks per year for full-time salaries.

The majority of work on the project was undertaken in 2005/2006 by external consultants CPEA Social Care, Children’s Services and Management Associates and included detailed role evaluations of posts to ensure that staff were correctly graded and paid for their duties and responsibilities under a new four-tiered structure.

Three quarters of education support staff moved across to the new arrangements in September 2006, benefiting from improved terms and conditions of service and salary scales. Indeed, the Island’s education support staff are more generously remunerated than their UK counterparts. However, 25% of the education support staff workforce, mainly nursery nurses, chose not to move across to the new arrangements, as the role evaluations undertaken on their posts would have resulted in them being paid less than they had previously enjoyed.

These staff were given indefinite protection on their existing grades, pay and terms and conditions of service. Concerns raised by some support staff led to CPEA Social Care, Children’s Services and Management Associates being re-engaged in November 2006 to re-evaluate 138 education support staff posts, make recommendations for the integration of nursery nurses into the new framework, so as to unblock career progression opportunities, and re-assess the salary structure.

A detailed report has been received from the consultants which confirms the accuracy of the gradings of 124 of the re-evaluated posts, upgrades 14 and makes seven recommendations, including the introduction of a qualification bar for posts graded at levels 3 and 4, the highest levels in the new structure, improved salaries at level 4 and arrangements by which the nursery nurses can be integrated in the new framework, rather than being protected outside it.

The Department has accepted the recommendations, on which it is now seeking the views of its support staff.

Education Minister Anne Craine MHK commented that the overall impact of the new arrangements had been to ensure that staff received appropriate remuneration for the vital work they do and had dedicated appraisal arrangements, standardised terms and conditions of service, a learning and skills development plan and a career structure, all of which contributed to a well-motivated and better-skilled workforce benefiting the Island’s children and young people.

She stated that the Department welcomed the report, which had addressed the issues raised and offered a ‘way forward’ to full implementation of the new arrangements.

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