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Heads can live with new hours

The new year message from the EIS is less than a happy one, reports David Henderson

Over half the headteachers in an EIS survey say they are either dissatisfied with the way teachers have responded to their new conditions of service or that it is too early to tell. Only a little under one in three say they are broadly satisfied with school-level negotiations.

More encouragingly for the union, more than eight out of 10 heads (84 per cent) say that teachers are wholly professional in implementing the new 35-hour working week.

Only 6 per cent of the 488 heads surveyed report that some teachers have refused to work beyond 35 hours. Six out of 10 report no difficulties or a broad acceptance by staff that the agreement must be seen as a total package.

A further 23 per cent, while reporting some concerns, say there is no evidence of clockwatching.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary, said: "Our internal survey gives a lie to those who believe that the effect of the McCrone agreement is clockwatching by teachers. Teachers recognise that at the heart of the McCrone agreement are new professional opportunities. While one of the purposes of the agreement is to reduce teacher workload, there is no evidence that teachers are simply downing tools at the end of a 35-hour week."

In a separate study, the union has identified nearly 1,200 extra support staff who have been appointed to schools since the agreement two years ago, confirming that councils are well on their way to meeting their target of 3,500 by March next year.

"The additional level of support will help relieve teacher burdens and it will allow teachers to engage more in the process of teaching and learning," Mr Smith continued. He believes McCrone partners are on track to implement the full deal by 2006.

However, the union is again demanding that the Scottish Executive pumps in extra money to support teachers through the chartered teacher programme that will be largely run through modular courses at universities. The cost of individual modules could be over pound;600.

"As a full chartered teacher course consists of 12 modules, it means that the cost to be borne by the teacher could be as much as pound;8,000. Local authorities and the Executive say that they will not directly fund teachers to take part in the course. The onus is therefore on the Executive to ensure that, through the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, universities are funded at an adequate level so that the cost of modules is considerably reduced," Mr Smith said.

Universities are now preparing courses due to start in September.

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