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EIS kicks twilight duties into touch

David Henderson reports on plans to make sport, music and drama after 3.30pm part of teachers' contracts

PLANS to include extracurricular activities in a revised teachers' contract have been swiftly dismissed by the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Ross Martin, West Lothian's education convener, told a school sports conference in Livingston last week that only a renegotiation of contracts as part of the millennium review could change the climate in schools.

"I get the sense of a mood for change," Mr Martin said. Sport, music and drama in the "twilight hours" between 3.30pm and 6pm had to become an integral part of the job.

Pressed on the 10 per cent salary hike for teachers in the independent sector who take sport and the half-day in lieu for others, Mr Martin said:

"If it's good enough for the private sector to have a commitment to school sport, then it's good enough for the public sector. It's being discussed."

Michael O'Neill, director of education in North Lanarkshire and vice-president of the Association of Directors of Education, rejected paying teachers for extracurricular activities but supported contract talks.

"I think it's about paying teachers the proper rate for the job and how we staff our schools. I would not like a system where teachers are paid bonuses or extra on top," Mr O'Neill said. He favours time off for extra work instead.

But Ronnie Smith, the EIS general secretary, quickly warned: "Teachers are first and foremost educators. I would not expect their contract of employment to address anything other than their professional role. That is not to say there is not a place for the volunteer, as there has always been."

Mr Smith said: "If the employers want to enthuse and engage teachers they need to turn their mind to the underlying reasons why there has been a reduction in teachers' participation. A suitable starting point would be the burden of expectation and workload teachers face."

He said the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee would be tied up with talks on salaries and structures, not conditions of service. "We have got to lay to rest the idea that sport, or any other extracurricular activity, is necessarily best performed by teachers. Lots of very positive activities are conducted effectively by parents and volunteers."

Mr O'Neill told the conference that sport and physical activity were central to North Lanarkshire's policies of raising achievement. Lack of self-esteem, self-belief and self-confidence were reasons why many young people underachieved, and sport could provide outlets for success.

"Our approach is about participation. Our message is about taking part and personal bests."

* About pound;50,000 from Scottish Office coffers would buy cover for teachers to plan representative schools sport, according to the umbrella organisation Scottish School Sports. Fraser Henderson, a consultant and former depute director of education in Lothian, said although the sum was "peanuts", it would improve performances and raise the status of sport in schools.

The Scottish Rugby Union has confirmed it is to plough pound;200,000 into schools rugby, beginning in the next session. Alarmed at the low numbers playing, it is offering clubs up to pound;1,800 for each school they involve in junior rugby.

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