Information for staff and governors

Guidance on HR questions and other matters for governors and school staff.

Frequently asked questions

Click on each question to reveal the answer.

Of the original 1,833 middle school employees in groups 1, 2 and 3: 

  • 1,246 secured other roles
  • 295 volunteered for redundancy or retirement
  • 292 were made redundant

The new appointments were evenly split between secondary and primary with a small percentage going to middle schools and out of county.

Unfortunately the Local Authority can't guarantee jobs for everyone in the new 2 tier structure because under Local Management of Schools, appointment decisions are made by individual governing bodies and not by the Local Authority.

However, with the expansion of the SOR primary and secondary schools and the fact that 30% of teachers in Suffolk are approaching retirement age there will be a significant number of vacancies available. What cannot be guaranteed is that the vacancies will suit all individual circumstances. Since the beginning of SOR, 68% of all middle school staff have secured other employment. 

Although the staffing protocol has been in place since the beginning of SOR, in reality the trend has been to move away from it and for schools, pyramids and clusters to come up with their own version of the protocol. This has not necessarily had a negative impact and we still had over 1,200 middle school staff secure jobs in primary and secondary schools. The majority of headteachers who have appointed middle school staff have been impressed with the calibre of candidates and been pleased with the outcomes. The SOR team with work closely with schools and pyramids and will support a more flexible recruitment model in order to retain the good skills within the county. We will facilitate collaborative working across schools and promote the expertise and the value of middle school staff to primary and secondary schools. 

First and upper schools will have a requirement for teachers and support staff with working experiences of years 5 and 6, and 7 and 8. Targeting staff of closing middle schools who have these skills, are familiar with the county, the location and, in some cases, with the pupils themselves saves time, effort and money. Our support will concentrate on developing and training middle school staff and preparing them for the recruitment process and helping headteachers of expanding schools to make the right staffing decisions for their schools. In addition, we will collate information about school vacancies in Suffolk and share them with the middle school staff on a weekly basis, in most cases before they are advertised externally, to give the middle schools a head start. We also provide a matching service whereby we match individual skills and experience to the requirements of recruiting schools and only send schools details of potentially suitable candidates. 

In addition to the above, support staff will, during the last 6 months prior to school closure, be given first consideration for any appropriate vacancies within Suffolk County Council.

An appropriate vacancy is any vacancy that is at the same grade, 1 grade higher or 1 grade lower, requires the same skills and within reasonable distance of the current role.

In the meantime, all staff are able and encouraged to keep an eye on Suffolk Jobs Direct, the Suffolk County Council list of job vacancies, and can apply for any jobs that meet their aspirations.

Voluntary redundancy will be considered but only where it will avoid a compulsory redundancy elsewhere.

Any member of staff on extended absence will be treated in the same way as if they were at work. You should be kept informed by your school of any issues relating to SOR and how they may affect you.

We will work with you to look for redeployment opportunities that are suitable.

As the school will be closing your post cannot be held open for you on your return to work.

If you are on maternity leave and are not able to come back due to the closure of the school and you haven't secured another post you will not be required to pay back any part of your Occupational Maternity Pay.

If you have worked continuously for Suffolk County Council for over 12 months you will be treated as a permanent member of staff.

However, you are not entitled to a redundancy payment until you have completed 2 years continuous service.

The purpose of the skills audit form is to allow the SOR team to match your aspirations, skills, experience and preferences to the vacancies that we are holding.

The local authority as the employer has a duty to do what it can to reduce the number of redundancies. Equally, you as an employee, have a duty to cooperate with the employer in order to reduce the risk of being made redundant.

It is therefore to your advantage to work with the local authority in order to secure a suitable role.

If a skills audit form is not completed, your details will be taken from your personnel file and we will match you to any vacancies that appear to be commensurate with your current role, effectively slotting you in to a post.

This is not the course of action we want to take, as the details held for you on your personnel file may not be up to date and do not include your preferences. 

Individuals at risk of redundancy will not be put under any pressure to accept a role not suited to their skills or their personal circumstances.

However staff must be aware that turning down a role which is deemed to be 'suitable alternative employment' with no reasonable and objective explanation, may affect their entitlement to a redundancy payment. 

Trial periods for redeployed staff who would otherwise have been made redundant are a statutory requirement and are there as a safety net to ensure that an employee who accepts an offer of alternative employment is given the opportunity to assess the suitability of the role without losing their right to a redundancy payment.

This period is usually 4 weeks but has been extended by agreement to a maximum of one full term within the context of schools. If at the end of the trial period, you decide that you do not wish to accept the position permanently you will not lose any entitlement to redundancy payments unless, in the opinion of the Council, you have unreasonably refused to continue with the job.

The Governing Body may also terminate a trial period if it believes your performance in the role has been inadequate. You will not be entitled to any redundancy payment unless the Council is satisfied that the job was unsuitable for you, taking into account the skills and experience you have and the availability of training and support.

Please note that trial periods only apply to posts within Suffolk schools or within the Suffolk Local Authority.

The term comes from employment legislation and refers to jobs you may be offered when at risk of redundancy. “Suitable Alternative Employment” means jobs on broadly similar pay, terms and conditions, similar status, requiring similar skills and within reasonable travelling distance of the existing place of work.

Personal circumstances would be critical when assessing what is and what isn’t reasonable additional travel distance.

We will, in the first instance, do what we can to find you redeployment opportunities within your preferred locations, failing that we will work towards finding you roles that are within a reasonable travelling distance.

You can apply for as many vacancies as you wish but once you have accepted a post you will be bound by the terms of the employment contract.

So if you accept a contract but subsequently change your mind you will need to resign from that contract and comply with the terms of the notice period unless both parties agree otherwise.

Please bear in mind that salary safeguarding under SOR only applies to the first post you accept, and will automatically cease once you have resigned regardless of whether you have actually started working in that post or not.

Headteachers of closing middle schools prepare employment references for all their staff and these are held by the School Infrastructure Team (SIT) at Suffolk County Council.

When applying for new roles the following contact details should be entered for last employer referee: 

School Infrastructure Team – SOR
Reference request
Suffolk County Council
8 Russell Road
Ipswich Suffolk
IP1 2BX

The references are sent out exactly as prepared by the headteachers and not altered in any way.

We will support residential caretakers in securing alternative employment and we will work closely with UNISON and the housing authority to support individuals in their quest to be re-housed.

We will meet with them individually and as a group to discuss their individual circumstances so we can tailor the support to their individual needs.

Please note that the ultimate decision on housing rests with the Housing Authority and not Suffolk County Council.

Where all reasonable alternatives for on-going employment have been exhausted, including within the pyramid or cluster, and it has not been possible to avoid this situation through the careful management of natural turnover, a redundancy situation would apply.

In the first instance, this would apply to the Caretaker post within the closing middle school. However, the County Council may accept voluntary redundancy from within the partnership of schools (in this instance, the primary school) in order to avoid a compulsory redundancy from within the same partnership, where all other reasonable alternatives have failed, a compulsory redundancy would otherwise ensue. Compulsory redundancy is always the last resort.

Where the new role is on a lower grade the County Council’s Organisational Change Management Policy applies for support staff and the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document applies for teachers.

They both provide for three years’ salary safeguarding from the start date in the new role. Please note that salary safeguarding does not apply where the new post is on a higher grade even if the new salary is lower than the current salary. 

Salary safeguarding applies to anyone moving from a closing middle school as long as:

  • The new role is within Suffolk, and can be at a local authority maintained school, academy or free school or at the Suffolk County Council.
  • There is no break in service.
  • The new role does not start prior to the first year of transition which is the point at which the year 5s remain at the primary schools. So for group 4 salary safeguarding will apply from September 2013 until closure.  An exception to this is where the middle school is going through a redundancy procedure in which case salary safeguarding could start earlier.
  • The new role is not on a higher grade than the original role.
  • The new role is on the same terms and conditions of employment therefore salary safeguarding would not apply if an instructor is redeployed as a cover supervisor.

Please note that the rules surrounding salary safeguarding are too complex to include in a document such as this. You are advised to contact SOR-HR before signing a contract of employment or formally accepting a new post if in doubt as to whether salary safeguarding will apply or not.

For headteachers and leadership teams

A commensurate role for a Headteacher is any other leadership or teaching role at a secondary, primary or PRU. Some schools refer to some leadership posts as directors these would also be deemed commensurate as long as they are on the leadership spine. Salary safeguarding would apply in all these situations, with the safeguarded sum reducing as and when increments are awarded. At the end of the three years any amount still safeguarded will be stopped and the paid salary would reduce to the substantive salary.

For teachers

Teachers’ salaries will be safeguarded for 3 years in accordance with the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document so long as the new role is a teaching role. Salary safeguarding does not apply if the new post is different to the original post or if it is a promotion. So if a teacher with a TLR is redeployed into a leadership role where the salary is lower than the original total salary, safeguarding will not apply.  

For support staff

For support staff, salary safeguarding applies for 3 years or until the new salary equals or exceeds the original salary whichever occurs earlier. Please note salary safeguarding only applies to posts that are one grade lower than the original post. It is not possible to be re-employed to a post that is say 2 grades lower and be safeguarded for the equivalent of one grade. So if you are on grade 4 you cannot be redeployed to a grade 2 post and be safeguarded at grade 3. Salary safeguarding is calculated on the basis that the new appointment on the lower grade is on the mid-way bar point. For part-time staff it is the grade and spinal point which are safeguarded and not the weekly sum and not the hours. So if your original post is for 10 hours per week and the new post is for 15 hours your salary would be safeguarded on the 10 hours, if the original post is on 15 hours per week and the new post on 10 hours your salary would be safeguarded on 10 hours. However, if you currently work 4 days a week, a new 2 days a week contract would not normally be deemed commensurate. But in order to reduce the number of redundancies the LA is happy to apply salary safeguarding to such roles should the individuals accept them as an alternative to redundancy.

Teachers who have a TLR or SEN allowance and have been re-employed into a role that either does not attract a TLR or attracts a lower TLR, the original TLR will be protected for three years from the date of redeployment.

A teacher with a safeguarded TLR may be requested to carry out some responsibilities commensurate with their TLR on a fixed term basis. For instance, where appropriate s/he may be required to act up for a fixed period to cover another teacher’s temporary absence, such as sickness or maternity leave.

If you refuse unreasonably to carry out such a task you may risk losing the safeguarded TLR.

Hours are not protected and so if someone gets a job on fewer hours the original salary would not be protected but the original grade and spinal point are. 

Salary protection applies from the first year of transition. For example, when the year 5’s stay in their primary school.

The new role must be in any Suffolk Local Authority school, Suffolk academy or free school and must be commensurate with your old role.

If you are not certain whether salary safeguarding will apply to you, you are strongly advised to contact SOR-HR before accepting an offer of employment.

Salary protection applies to any member of a closing middle school staff redeployed during, or immediately before, the first year of implementation. For example, the year when the year 5’s stay at the primary school.

Entitlement to salary protection will continue to apply until the school closure. If you are not certain whether salary safeguarding will apply to you, you can contact SOR-HR for advice before accepting an offer of employment.

If a member of staff takes up a post in the new structure on a lower salary, the safeguarding provisions of the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document will apply to teachers and the County Council’s Organisational Change Management Policy to support staff.

This effectively means that the higher safeguarded salary will remain in place for not longer than 3 years or until the substantive salary in the new role equals to or exceeds the safeguarded salary.

The safeguarding will end three years from the date on which the employee starts work in their new post or earlier where they have either changed roles or resigned from a safeguarded post.

Employees should seek independent financial advice regarding their own pension arrangements.

For some individuals, it may be possible to continue pension contributions based on the previously higher rate of salary or preserve pensionable service based on a previously higher salary.

Where the new role is a promotion it is not treated as redeployment but as a normal promotion. It is therefore up to the 2 parties, such as the candidate and the appointing school, to agree a level at which to appoint.

The direct answer to this question is that neither applies but the employee retains their continuous service date and the benefits attached to that.

Only jobs within Suffolk County Council and Suffolk academies and free schools qualify for salary safeguarding.

Redundancies made at school closure will generally be dated 31 August, and if redundant, you will not be able to work for, or be offered a post by, any local authority, or indeed most public sector organisations for 1 month and 1 day after that date.

Should you secure a post within that period your redundancy payment will be withdrawn.

This does not apply where the new post is within the private sector. If you are not certain which organisations are covered by the 1 month and 1 day rule you can contact SOR-HR for clarification. 

If a member of staff from a closing middle school does not secure a permanent post by the time the school closes, they will retain their rights to redundancy and premature retirement where applicable for a maximum of 12 months if they secure a temporary contract immediately at the time of closure.

During this time the individual concerned will maintain their continuous service and qualify for salary safeguarding as long as the new school is a state funded Suffolk school. During this 12 month period, the individual and the local authority would still do what they can to ensure that a permanent post is secured before the 12 months are up in order to avoid redundancy.

If the individual turns down an offer of a permanent post at the new school they stand to lose their rights to redundancy and premature retirement and their refusal would be treated as a resignation. 

If you have not been able to secure a post by the time your school closes then redundancy could apply. Staff must be aware that where an individual is made redundant they would not be allowed to work for, or be offered a post by, any local government organisation, and a number of other public sector organisations, for 1 month and 1 day of the termination date otherwise the redundancy payment will be withdrawn.

School holidays do not count therefore a person who is redundant at the end of the academic year would not be able to work for the first 32 days of the Autumn term. 

For Teachers redundancy is calculated as ½ week’s salary for each completed year of service up to the age of 21, 1 week’s salary for each completed year of service up to the age of 41, 1½ weeks’ salary for each year of completed service from the age of 42 onwards. The maximum number of continuous years’ service taken into account for redundancy calculation purposes is 20 years.

For Support staff redundancy is calculated as ½ week’s salary for each completed year of service up to the age of 21, 1 week’s salary for each year of completed service up to the age of 41, 1½ weeks’ salary for each year of completed service from the age of 42 onwards. This number of weeks is then multiplied by 1.5. The maximum number of continuous years’ service taken into account for redundancy calculation purposes is 20 years.

For staff on variable hours, the weekly salary is based on an average of the 12 working weeks immediately prior to the date of the redundancy notice. 

The salary used will be your substantive salary at the point of contract termination.

The “continuous service start date” refers to the start of your continuous service in local government. This can be in any role and in any local authority in the country.  A number of contractual rights, for example sick pay and occupational maternity rights are dependent on continuous local government service.  

“Continuous date for redundancy purposes” will in most cases be identical to the “continuous start date” except where:

  • Someone has held a number of concurrent contracts, in which case redundancy entitlement will be based on the start date of each of the contracts being made redundant
  • Work has been undertaken on a ‘casual’ basis, where there is no employment relationship and no mutuality of obligation between the parties, for example: supply work, one-to-one tutoring or providing sickness cover and / or relief work. 

If you are on formal notice of redundancy and you secure a post, the formal notice will be withdrawn. If you have already been made redundant and your contract has been terminated and receive an offer of a post within 1 month and 1 day of the date of termination, any redundancy payment you have received will be reclaimed.

This does not apply where the new post is in the private sector, supply teaching and/or voluntary work.

The rules on retirement are governed by the Teachers’ and the Local Government Pension schemes.

Anyone aged between 55 and normal retirement age, is a member of either scheme and is made redundant, would qualify to draw their pension on unreduced benefits basis.

As this may affect your future employment and the pension you would receive we recommend that you seek advice from a pensions professional.

Although it is not an intention of the review to facilitate early retirement/voluntary redundancy opportunities, there may be occasions where this is appropriate or necessary as a last resort.

The County Council may accept voluntary redundancy from within the partnership of schools in order to avoid a compulsory redundancy from within the same partnership, where all other reasonable alternatives have failed and a compulsory redundancy would otherwise ensue.

Voluntary redundancy may be considered where no commensurate post is available in the reorganised structure.

The existing policy provides for the payment of unreduced premature retirement benefits to teachers who are between 55 and 60, made redundant at the date of school closure, as well as redundancy pay, if they have not secured suitable alternative employment.

Staff should be aware that they may jeopardise their entitlement to a redundancy payment and premature retirement benefits if they decline an offer of suitable alternative employment.

Overall Suffolk, like other authorities, will face a shortage of teachers through retirement, and will not be encouraging further teachers to retire. 

There is no limit on the Pension lump sum beyond which tax would be payable. Tax would only be charged if the lump sum was reinvested into another pension or there is a deliberate delay of more than three months, on the part of the Pensioner, to enable payment of the lump sum to be made. National Insurance is not charged on Pension benefits.

Please note the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) changed from 1 April 2014.

Please go to www.suffolkpensionfund.org for further information about the 2014 scheme.

We have already run a number of pension workshops throughout the county which some of you have attended and more sessions could be arranged should they be required.

However, should you wish to speak with someone regarding your pension, you can contact:

  • 03456 053000 (Suffolk County Council Pensions Team) for the Local Government Pension Scheme
  • 08456 066166 for the Teachers’ Pensions Agency

Most schools buy in to Employee Assistance and Wellbeing Programmes who are able to provide specialist advice and you can access that through your schools.

In addition, there will be opportunities for one-to-one meetings with various colleagues who can help on matters relating to training and development, interview and CV writing techniques and general advice.

There will also be pensions and job centre plus seminars where you can get some financial and general advice. SOR-HR will be offering regular drop-in sessions at your school so you can pop in and discuss any relevant issues.

All six teacher unions, plus Unison representing support staff, have been involved in the negotiation of all the personnel specific policies and procedures and they continue to be actively involved in discussions over the operational aspects of the SOR implementation.

If you are a member of a trade union they are able to provide you with advice or speak on your behalf.

Whilst it is understandable that middle staff may want to start looking for alternative jobs as soon as a decision to close is made, there are a number of initiatives which will help the retention of middle school staff.

Salary safeguarding does not apply until the start of the transition. For example, the academic year prior to closure when the middle school loses its year 5 and will need to reduce their staffing accordingly. This helps retain staff particularly those on higher grades and/or responsibility allowances.

First and upper schools who will need to increase their staff to cater for the additional year groups will require upper KS2 and lower KS3 experience and will provide the main source of recruitment for the middle schools. These schools will be encouraged to prepare their 3-year resource plans and organizational structures early on and to start recruiting into the new structures by offering post dated contracts to Middle School staff who can take up the new posts either the year before closure or as soon as the Middle School has closed.

Post dated contracts are an effective way of addressing staffing issues within the pyramid.

The SOR team will also encourage schools within a pyramid or cluster to work more closely and to form staffing working groups where heads can meet regularly and discuss their staffing requirements and how and if they can help each other within their group of schools.

Where middle schools have a surplus of staff during the transition year, rather than make them redundant, they may be able to second staff to other middle schools with a shortage.

Staff whose schools have closed and haven’t been able to secure posts may be interested in working for a closing middle school for a year or so without losing the right to redundancy.

Where the staff shortage cannot be resolved within the pyramid a first or an upper school may decide to appoint a new member of staff earlier than required and second them to the middle school for that duration. Failing that, temporary appointments can be made or supply teachers as a last resort.

It is important to note that it is to the pyramid’s benefit, in particular the upper school, to ensure that middle schools are not left without the right level of staffing and not to allow standards to drop.

The SOR section of this website has relevant information which you may find useful.

SOR HR will be happy to come and talk to you as a group, explain the process in more detail and answer any queries you may have.

We will also be offering drop-in sessions at the middle schools for you to pop in and see us on a one-to-one basis if necessary.

Alternatively, you can email your query to sonia.docherty@suffolk.gov.uk