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EIS sticks to its guns on pay and conditions

THE Educational Institute of Scotland has hardened its position on salaries and conditions in a wish list presented to the McCrone inquiry and offered no olive branch to the Scottish Executive or local authority employers.

Indeed it repeats many claims made last year during the failed Millennium Review talks and strengthens its demands for vastly improved pay scales.

Drawing on a specially commissioned study by Paisley University academics, the union says it now has hard evidence that teachers have fallen significantly behind other graduate professions.

Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, underlined the scale of the pay gap. "On the evidence here in salary terms, teaching is undervalued. It's not competitive and has to be made competitive. If the Government wants a world class education system, it's going to have to pay for it," Mr Smith said.

The union admits it has not costed its proposals, but the study found that the average teacher needs a catch-up award of pound;100 a week to be brought into line with comparable graduate professions. For the 18,000 teachers at the top of the unpromoted pay scale, pay hikes of 20 per cent would take their salary from just under pound;23,000 to around pound;28,000.

A key demand is far better treatment for new entrants, whose salaries are said to be 16 per cent behind those of similar professions and fail to progress as fast. "For a teacher who has been working for five years, he or she would require an increase of over 50 per cent in order to match the salary of an average graduate who also started work five years previously," Mr Smith said.

Without attractive salaries, he continued, teaching faced a serious staffing crisis with the average classroom teacher now aged in their late 40s. "There appears to be no forward planning in place to address this haemorrhage of teachers which will happen within he space of the next 20 years," the union cautions in its McCrone submission.

The EIS, echoing the recent local authorities' submission, backs a premature retirement initiative, similar to those on offer in further and higher education in the mid-90s.

Mr Smith also demanded a fairer deal for 14,000 teachers on temporary and fixed-term contracts, perhaps through the creation of permanent supply pools.

There is no backsliding, either, on conditions of service, a major stumbling block in the millennium talks. On class sizes, the union restates its call for further phased reductions in all school sectors, while existing absence cover agreements should be retained.

Control over non-contact hours remains a likely sticking point in any future negotiations with employers following the McCrone report in May, although the EIS demands an end to "overly prescriptive and tightly compartmentalised arrangements" on working hours introduced in the mid-80s.

Its submission states: "The EIS is committed to ensuring that teachers have a greater degree of professional autonomy than exists at present. This must ensure an appropriate level of teacher control over non-contact hours."

At least half of non-class contact time should be available for preparation, correction and other duties that support teaching.

Parents do not want teachers to be constantly called away from the classroom for development work and training, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council has told the inquiry. It wants classroom continuity but recognises teachers need adequate time for continuing professional development. Cutting contact hours to free up time would be one option, it says.

In a wry observation, the council points out that the Main inquiry cut the pupil year by two weeks, the time now being clawed back through homework clubs and holiday study sessions.

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