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Councils push for staffing rethink

SECONDARY staffing budgets could be revised to employ the support staff seen as fundamental to the success of the McCrone agreement, Gordon Jeyes, one of the employers' key advisers, told the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on Wednesday.

The children's services director in Stirling suggested that with councils significantly short of funds to fulfil the terms of the deal, there may be scope for reconfiguring the staffing standard.

Authorities are already anticipating leaner management structures and less departmentalism and are keen to remove layers of principal teachers. Aberdeenshire and West Lothian, for example, have floated alternatives that have brought a hostile reaction from the unions.

Mr Jeyes accepted there would be problems negotiating changes in management structures through local talks but said: "Difficulties should not stop us being clear about where we want to go."

He also proposed that senior teachers and assistant principal teachers who move to the chartered teacher scale could be allocated duties while on a conserved salary.

Sketching out the future, he warned: "Is it as part of each new structure that posts will be sized, or is there a danger that some schools will miss the opportunity and size existing posts unnecessarily?"

Mr Jeyes defended the plan to pay chartered teachers and principal teachers roughly the same. "This was entirely the point. The work they do is different but management should not always be valued over other important work. There are though challenges in communicating this message," he said.

Headteachers and others have criticised the McCrone deal for not changing the way teachers operate, despite substantial pay hikes. Mr Jeyes joined the chorus but said it was important in the first phase not to challenge staff "too forcefully" for fear of losing the long-term goodwill of many who already work well beyond the contractual commitment. "This was one of the mistakes we made in 1987," he said.

Mr Jeyes added: "There was nothing in the agreement that should lead to a decrease in voluntary work by teachers. I am confident this can recover and recover more quickly than in the late 1980s. It is all part of efforts by some staff to seek out the full, detailed meaning of this agreement."

Mr Jeyes, however, believed the deal must at some point lead to raised attainment and improved social inclusion. There should be more time for teaching, a wider variety of staff supporting children, less disruption, better teacher induction and enhanced professional development.

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