Crunch time on pay

Neil Munro

Maginnis says 'complaints about workload won't wash' in robust attack on teacher privileges

THE UNIONS were this week handed one of the bluntest warnings yet that teachers will have to give up restrictive practices and privileged conditions if they want pay levels to rise. Glasgow, meanwhile, wants teachers to work five extra days a year.

Elizabeth Maginnis, leader of the education authorities, was speaking just ahead of the meeting today (Friday) of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee. This is the first in a series of what are likely to be tough bargaining encounters to wrestle with the unfinished business from the Millennium Review, the joint investigation of education carried out by the unions and local authorities.

Mrs Maginnis told a General Teaching Council dinner in Edinburgh on Tuesday: "A great deal of work has to be done to reinvent a teaching profession where we will be able to recruit, retain and properly reward."

She added: "We need to see the professional classroom role enhanced and emphasised, we need to enable the managers to manage, we need to create modern professional conditions of service for teachers, we need to reward teachers more and we need to sweep away the raft of restrictive regulation and practices which dominate Scottish education today."

These remarks indicate the management side is prepared to accept that teachers ought to get "something for something" if they make concessions. Equally, the authorities believe that teachers have to be more accountable in return for Government investment in areas such as the early years, basic literacy and numeracy, classroom assistants, class sizes, information technology, and child care after and during school.

"This drive to raise the status of the classroom teacher through greater autonomy and greater accountability matched with greater classroom support must be accompanied by a rise in teachers' salaries," Mrs Maginnis said.

In such a climate, "complaints about workload won't wash", she said. Teachers had to show "greater willingness to recognise the wider world of working families that most people live in".

"Knee-jerk reactions to simple proposals for a review of long summer holidays, or the need perhaps to change the working school day, don't reflect well on a profession which, rightly or wrongly, is seen to be trying to hold on to privileges few others enjoy when the vast majority of families see parents working long hours and where a little bit of flexibility could make all the difference."

The over-complexity and illogicality of teachers' career structures and grades was overly dirigiste "in a climate where the professional autonomy of the teacher must inevitably be extended as their professional accountability comes under greater scrutiny".

Mrs Maginnis's views are well known to the unions which tend to portray her as an isolated voice of the anti-teacher brigade, frustrated at not getting her way.

But there were indications this week that other councils also believe the crunch has come for the unions. In its response to the Scottish Office consultative paper on continuous professional development, Glasgow comments that "consideration should now be given to an extension of the teachers' working year by five days for staff development purposes".

A report to the city's schools subcommittee says this is the only way to meet the professional needs of teachers without disrupting the lives of pupils and parents. Teachers currently work a 195-day year while pupils attend for 190 days, the balance being reserved for in-service training.

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Neil Munro

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