REPRESENTATION & ADVICE membership across a wide range of issues. It’s not just about helping when people are in trouble, but also about offering specialist advice on the whole range of professional issues faced by school leaders every day, whether that’s a difficult decision regarding the exclusion of a child or a challenging situation that has arisen with the governing body. By the time members contact us, the issues are usually quite complex. Although individual case work is only part of our role, it is the aspect most keenly felt and appreciated by members. With more than a thousand open cases at the moment, the team is busy covering a whole range of issues from members facing everything from capability proceedings and disciplinary action to grievance and personal injury issues. In addition, regulation and the law have always featured heavily in education and employment. The influence of both continues to grow. Our legal team of two solicitors and two assistants provides legal input to support the assistance provided to members by our regional and advice officers. The legal team will also advise on the merits of potential claims and, where the NAHT determines that a claim has good prospects of succeeding and that a legal remedy is appropriate, will pursue cases on behalf of members. A word of caution here, though: thankfully the need to resort to the law is less frequent than most press coverage would have you believe, while the large amounts of money won in compensation are extremely rare, despite reports. The whole legal process is draining and even winning rarely produces the sense of justice or satisfaction that members desire.Very many members want legal action at time of trouble and in the majority of cases such an approach is not appropriate. Indeed, it is often counterproductive.
The team is busy covering a whole range of issues from members facing everything from capability proceedings to grievance and personal injury
The Representation and Advice team are strong advocates on behalf of members and can table thump with the very best. But helping keep school leaders’ careers intact during and following difficult times is often a more subtle task than the law can cater for. The challenge for the future is to continue to deliver quality support and advice to members under ever increasing pressure. The fragmentation of education, the decentralisation of employers and the ever-changing educational backdrop, taken together with an increasing void in support for leaders from local authorities and the DfE means that school leaders are approaching their union and professional association more and more. We are therefore reviewing what we do and how we do it to ensure that members can access what they need when they need it. But if there is one piece of advice I could give to members it would be this: if you are used, abused or falsely accused, contact the NAHT as soon as possible – don’t let things run on without taking advice. That will provide time for you to receive advice and act upon it. It might save your skin.
IN NUMBERS: NAHT REPRESENTATION AND ADVICE
The number of solicitors, supported by two further legal assistants, employed by the NAHT to help members with legal problems.
The number of specialist assistants who deal with issues initially before referring them to an advisor or regional officer to follow up, if necessary.
The number of regional officers. They are the local face of the Association, covering all local education authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They advise and represent members individually and collectively, negotiate and interact with employers and authorities, and support the structure of the union.
The NAHT advice line receives between 200 and 250 calls a week from members.
Number of cases open at the moment.
Number of NAHT members who are supported by the advice team.
0300 30 30 333 The number to call if you need professional help or advice related to your job. The NAHT helpline is open 8.30am-5.30pm Monday to Friday. When you get through, press ‘one’ for professional advice.
LEADERSHIP FOCUS ● MARCH/APRIL 2013
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Leadership Focus March/April 2013