Derby City Council

Teaching Assistant dispute: simple explanation of the Council’s pay omnishambles!

6x4a417115Why are the Teaching Assistants in dispute? What is the real reason for the pay cut? How is the Council being disingenuous? What is the only solution that makes sense?

(NB There are many permutations in this dispute depending on job roles, people who are actually on part time etc – I have tried to explain the underlying issue that’s affecting the majority of people)

The dispute is not about:

    • A demand for a pay increase ( just want original pay)
    • Equal pay between men and women ( this is about changes to Terms and Conditions, regardless of gender)
    • Losing pay for 6 weeks school holidays (TAs have never been paid for being on holiday)
    • Lack of money from central government ( many people are getting pay increases, it is not driven by budget constraints)

       Quote from David Cox, Head of Human Resources, Derby City Council
“The budgetary cuts imposed by central Government have NOTHING to do with the outcome of the equal pay review. Overall, the review has cost the Council in additional salaries”

It is about:

  • A 25% decrease in hourly rate of pay. (effective rate based on hours actually worked, annually – not just contracted hours)
  • Being required to do exactly the same task and same number of hours for 25% less pay
  • Being expected to work substantial overtime at no pay
  • Continuing to work the same number of annual hours as every other worker. ( for those on 32.5 hrs per week contracts)

Why is there a dispute:

  • The working pattern of TAs is the same as Teachers – 39 weeks of term time ( vs 45.3 for most other staff)
  • Like many other seasonal workers, the annual hours are not worked at 37 hrs each week – for TAs, and Teachers, they are compressed into 39 weeks. This is why TAs didn’t get paid overtime. The unpaid overtime was “banked” to cover the holiday period. The hours were considered on an annual basis.
  • Derby City Council, has ignored this, decided that TAs were paid for holidays and removed this from their pay, and also consider them to be part-time, when they were employed as full-time – just like Teachers – this has given rise to the 25% cut in their hourly rate

The problem is that the Council “want their cake and eat it”! – to explain

The original TA contract was for 32.5 hrs per week + as much goodwill as necessary to ensure the job was done, children protected, and a good service provided. This averaged at least 10 hrs per week above the contracted position. Over the 39 weeks, this unpaid excess was “banked” for the 6 weeks holiday.

(Note: Bin men actually do their 37 hrs per week over 4 days, the 5th day is a “holiday”…but it is not considered a “paid holiday” as the hours were earnt over the 1st 4 days – exactly the same principle was used for TAs. If the Council then said to the bin men – ” you only work 4 days therefore we will pay you now 4/5 of your salary – 20% reduction – there would be uproar. This is basically what has happened to the TAs)

As the TAs task has not changed then they will continue to work 40+ hrs per week. Now they are on a strict “term time contract”, then normal rules apply which would be that each additional hour should be paid – the Council don’t want to do this, or are very circumspect about it. The way they express this in the Terms and Conditions is:

“Many employees work hours above their contracted position and this is genuinely appreciated as it provides a greatly enhanced service to our customers however due to various legitimate reasons not all employees can offer this support and therefore employees are required to meet their contracted hours only

but then later, an option is provided which opens up the scenario which would help the TAs?

“Employees may be offered contracts in excess of 37 hours a week for part of the year and be granted additional paid leave or reduced working weeks for others parts of the year to ensure they do not work in excess of a full time equivalent year”

In effect, “we appreciate your goodwill, but we’re not paying for it”….but why not follow through on the offer of reduced working weeks which would be consistent with previous practice.

The TAs would not be able to do their job without the additional hours, and, as children are involved they can’t “down tools” when they’ve finished their contracted hours – it exploits the situation, and their conscientiousness. To cap it all TAs are being issued with timetables by the school which require them to work more than their contracted 32.5hrs as basic time…..again, it is assumed that the additional hours are “goodwill”.


There are 2 logical options, either

  1. Maintain the original principle that TAs work their annual hours in a 39 week period thus maintaining their original annual salary ( no overtime until annual contracted hours breached), OR
  2. Implement the proposed 25% cut in the hourly rate, but pay for every hour that they work – working only contracted hours is not sustainable.

Both options result in the same cost, but to save money the Council have imposed the option of :

…Implementing a 25% cut in the hourly rate, and then not paying for any excess hours – relying on goodwill

This is unethical, immoral, and in danger of being illegal if the effective hourly rate drops below the National minimum wage.

I defy anyone to find the Council’s proposal acceptable. An affordability argument cannot be used when other people are getting pay increases. TAs pay should not be cut to fund the salaries of higher paid workers, and other schools costs….but that is the reality!

Further pay increases for other staff

The Council continue to further undermine their affordability argument.  From October 2016 they are giving a discretionary pay rise to all those workers currently on the Derby City Council Minimum Earnings Level of £7.84 / hr ( vs national living wage of £7.20 / hr). This will be increased to £8.45/hr (7% pay increase). This means that those on the lowest grades will have a pay increase of £1000 pa, now; the consequence of this is that those on higher grades will also have to have pay increases to maintain differentials, and  avoid Equal Pay claims. The effect of this is contained within the 2016/17 budget at £1 million, rising to £2 million the year after, and then£3 million.

This discretionary increase seems to be affordable, as it supports a declared political objective, but maintaining the pay of TAs is not?!


I hope that any logical thinking person can see that what the Council is doing to the TAs is wrong.

There is no equity and justice in it. So why does the Council fail to see this, fail to negotiate, fail to be able to discuss a sensible way forward. Answer – sheer belligerence from Ranjit Banwait and David Cox ( Head of HR) and the need for them to “save face” – they have gone in so far, that they cannot back out. They are prepared to destroy the lives of 1000+ TAs and Support staff, and those of the children ( and their parents) that they teach, support and care for….just because, they, personally, will feel embarrassed!

It’s about time we had some honest, straight talking in public on this subject! It’s about time we had Labour Councillors standing up and speaking out against this – challenging Ranjit Banwait as to why he is telling lies to the public!

Collectively, the Labour Councillors can make a difference on this!



2 replies »

  1. So far since 7th September I’ve been punched in the eye, hit on my arm leaving a bruise, spat at several times, this is all a normal day in the life of a special needs HLTA but Derby City Council have taken away my special needs allowance, teachers still get it, but school can’t afford to give it to us as they have to pay for other non teaching staff who have had pay increases.

  2. “The original TA contract was for 32.5 hrs per week + as much goodwill as necessary to ensure the job was done, children protected, and a good service provided. This averaged at least 10 hrs per week above the contracted position. Over the 39 weeks, this unpaid excess was “banked” for the 6 weeks holiday.” This assertion has little basis in fact – not least because TA roles vary massively from school to school. Nationally the vast majority of TAs are paid term time only, plus the normal pro-rata holiday entitlement. If TAs are really working 10 hours per week above contract, then the solution is easy. They cease doing this work for which they are not paid! Some TAs are paid 37 hours per week and do literally bank un-worked hours to cover staff meetings, and school trips, and other out of school activity. But for job evaluation to work all staff have to be paid a comparable hourly rate of pay. The alternative is that TAs are removed from Green Book terms and conditions. The reality is huge numbers of TAs work part time, and this is where they are really abused. Schools are not bound by national contracts any more (e.g. employing all full time TAs on 32.5 hours) – these disappeared with Single Status. I have seen full time TAs employed on 25 hours per week 9 am – 12 noon and 1 pm to 3 pm, and no-one can stop this as schools are not bound by any agreements. All the employees can do is adhere to their contract – but most are too scared to do this. When TA were paid one rate of pay, but paid it all year around, it was below Scale 3 (i.e. well below their real grade because they were being paid across 12 months). They then received or didn’t receive a Special Needs allowance. Now there are usually at least 4 different grades for TAs – in my council running from Grade 4(unqualified) to Grade 7(HLTAs) The special needs allowance aspect is incorporated into the grading. The Council cannot pay TAs for hours they are not contracted to work. If they do, every other employee in the council will use them as comparitors in equal pay claims.

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