Failure to break pay impasse

A contentious pay deal for Scotland's 350 educational psychologists was struck just as their summer break began, reports David Henderson.

Educational psychologists have been forced to accept the original 15.7 per cent pay deal over three years they overwhelmingly rejected on the promise of revised salary structures next August. The Educational Institute of Scotland describes it as an "interim deal" but believes it will address national concerns about recruitment.

Psychologists will be equally unhappy with the addition of a "maximum" 35 hours' continuing professional development to their contracts when they are already being asked in the Currie report - the national review of their service - to spend 12 of their 222 working days on updating skills.

The Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers struck the contentious deal as the country's 350 psychologists headed off for their summer break. Further work on salary structures will be carried out by the SNCT over the next year.

Psychologists, represented by the EIS, have complained bitterly about the union's reluctance to agree to differentials between themselves and education advisers, although the Scottish Executive and local authority employers were happy to see psychologists' pay rise touching 17 per cent, two percentage points higher than for advisers.

The profession will now be awarded 7 per cent from April 1 2001, 4 per cent from April 2002 and a further 4 per cent from April next year. The cumulative effect takes it to 15.7 per cent.

Psychologists voted three to one to reject the original offer and said it was up to EIS negotiators to break the impasse and produce a pay package in line with the national agreement for teachers. Failure to match it would affect recruitment and retention of psychologists and damage the far-reaching reforms envisaged by the Currie report. No psychologists'

spokesman was available this week.

Meanwhile Cathy Jamieson, the Education Minister, has announced that a national task group, comprising the Executive, local authorities and psychologists, will develop the 31 recommendations of the report, chaired by Eleanor Currie, former education director in East Renfrewshire. Her report was published last February ahead of pay negotiations in the SNCT and has now been fully accepted by the minister.

Ms Jamieson said councils would be expected to restructure their psychological services in line with the report by next August. Mrs Currie's report places psychologists at the heart of social inclusion and raising attainment strategies, integrating them into mainline provision and removing much of their daily bureaucratic grind. Nearly all psychologists complained of spending hours on records of need and transport arrangements for children with particular difficulties.

The minister said: "Having now considered the report in full, I can confirm that I will set up a national task group to take forward the recommendations to help improve working practices, quality assurance and service delivery. I am fully committed to providing better integrated services for all our young people and their families. By accepting and taking forward the recommendations in the Currie report we are going a long way to achieving this aim." Ms Jamieson emphasised that she had already approved increasing the number of trainee psychologists from 34 to 48 and the financial support they receive during training. They will secure an extra pound;4,000, taking their grant to pound;24,500. Critics say this still leaves many short of the salaries they gave up to enter the service.

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