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'Foot dragging' under fire

SECONDARY heads returned with renewed impatience this week to ongoing battles with the unions over implementation of the teachers' settlement.

Heads say they are still having problems getting union members to "engage in a genuine debate on professional issues" more than a year after the McCrone agreement was reached.

John O'Keane, head of Cardinal Newman High in North Lanarkshire, told the spring conference of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland that the attitude of some was: "Do we have to do this?" Unless this issue was addressed, Dr O'Keane said, "we won't have a profession".

He was supported by Nigel Lawrie, headteacher of Port Glasgow High, who said that that some union members had "misconceptions" about McCrone. "People have taken the money but have not grasped the deal."

Another head shared Dr O'Keane's pessimism and accused the unions of "having the structures by the throat".

Headteachers from schools in Falkirk, Aberdeenshire and Glasgow, speaking to The TES Scotland, were less lurid in their language but admitted that there were still serious problems.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said in a response that "across Scotland's 3,000 schools, individual agreements on working time have been reached which enable teachers to manage the peaks and troughs of workload throughout the year. In well run, well led schools where there are good working relationships and a commitment to collegiate working, agreed ways will be found to address the issues."

During a discussion of possible new management structures in schools, there were calls to ensure that the issue of pupil indiscipline was effectively addressed. Roger Stewart, corporate manager for education services in West Lothian, said that there was a "generational opportunity".

Mr Stewart, whose own plans for an overhaul of secondary schools have run into vigorous union opposition, said: "It is important to consider change now because, while change will take place over a five to 10-year period, it is urgent that we make moves now so that we know where we are going.

"It is 30 years since the present structures were laid down for secondary education in Scotland. This is the generational change - we have now got the opportunity to design (the framework) and the changes that suit the children, so that we put the children before the structure."

Responding to Mr Stewart's West Lothian plans, which include the introduction of a "business support team", Alastair McLachlan, headteacher of Lornshill Academy in Alloa, welcomed the notion of a manager to relieve heads of some tasks but said that indiscipline was one area that had to be tackled.

"There must be support structures and resources to enable teachers to get on with their work and to avoid what we currently have which is a disproportionate amount of time, effort and resources spent on a relatively small number of pupils," Mr McLachlan said.

"There must be a clear sense of what we are trying to deliver and a determination to ensure that we are able to deliver that. Inclusivity, while admirable, should not stand in the way of attainment and achievement."

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