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McCrone attacks 'rigid' working hours

Professor was always against Scots teachers' 35-hour limit. Warwick Marshall reports.

THE man behind ground-breaking moves to limit teacher workloads in Scotland says he is disappointed that some staff are sticking "rigidly" to a 35-hour week.

Professor Gavin McCrone of Edinburgh University, who led the inquiry which produced last year's breakthrough settlement, said that he hoped there could have been more flexibility in the agreement.

He said that some schools were having to reduce parents' evenings because teachers were sticking to the limits and added: "I'm disappointed that 35 hours has become such an issue.

"We were looking for something that was more flexible, not something that was restrictive.

"What one hears is that it's been interpreted, at least in some schools, as a restrictive thing and I think that's unfortunate."

Professor McCrone said he had been against the limit throughout. Many teachers still work more than 35 hours a week. "I'm not asking teachers to work exceptional hours, but I did hope there would be more flexibility."

His comments come after warnings from Scottish local authorities that the McCrone agreement could collapse unless an extra pound;14 million is found this year. One of the key issues is the need for more support staff.

The McCrone report did not recommend a 35-hour week, but triggered negotiations which led to the workload agreement in which it was a key strand.

McCrone has been seen as the model for the workload talks south of the border. However, the 35-hour limit, which has proved unpopular with Scottish heads, was rejected by ministers. Unions are no longer arguing for it.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Head Teachers has attacked the first serious move by ministers in attempts to resolve the workload issue in England.

Next month, the Education Secretary Estelle Morris will write to heads outlining how schools can reduce workloads. The letter will be accompanied by a poster reminding teachers of admin tasks they should not be doing, such as bulk photocopying and collecting money from pupils.

David Hart, NAHT general secretary, said the letter was light on commitments about extra money for schools, particularly through the comprehensive spending review, or of reducing the number of government initiatives. "It seems the profession is having to take this very much on trust," he said.

His comments were criticised by Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, who said: "The NAHT should welcome this as early evidence of Estelle Morris's determination to make a difference."

The five classroom unions in England and Wales were yesterday due to to press their case for radical contractual changes, aimed at tackling workload, to the School Teachers' Review Body. The STRB is due to report back to Government with suggestions in April.

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