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Backbenchers told that the old deal is dead and buried

BACKBENCH contributions focused largely on local authority plans to raise composite class sizes from 25 to 30 pupils and the shake-out of promoted posts in secondary schools.

One of the most forceful contributions came from the Tories' Murray Tosh, a former principal history teacher at Belmont Academy in Ayr. Mr Tosh denounced the reform of secondary school managerial posts arguing: "The strength of a good school is, among other things, the strength of its principal teachers."

He said: "They deliver the curriculum. They organise courses and adapt all the documents that flood in. They take on board the revision of assessment and marking when the syllabus changes, when examinations change and when courses are scrubbed.

"They are there when the traditional gives way to the alternative, when alternative gives way to revised, when revised gives way to Higher Still and when Intermediate I and Intermediate II come in on the heels of that."

Fiona McLeod (SNP, West of Scotland) took issue with the composite class plans which she said were at odds with the Government's policy of cutting class sizes. The move to lift the ceiling was a device to find pound;20 million to shore up the rest of the management's offer.

Even in a rural area like Dumfries and Galloway, where it is acknowledged that composite classes are here to stay, an increase in the limit of its 287 such classes to 30 pupils would require 30 fewer teachers, Ms McLeod said. "What will that do for teachers' morale?"

Maureen Macmillan gave notice that the Government's own backbenchers would be paying close attention to how the committee of inquiry would address existing discontents before adding new demands.

Mr Peacock's reply suggested he was distancing himself from the management's masterplan since "the impact of the committee of inquiry was to put that offer to one side. All the questions about composite classes and the professional leader grade are all on one side."

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