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Paving the way to school freedom

The latest joint evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body represents a significant step towards securing pay and conditions of service which recognise that teachers and headteachers are highly-skilled professionals whose contribution is central to high standards of education.

Of particular significance is the agreement between the partners - the Government, employers, NASUWT, the Secondary Heads Association, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, and the Professional Association of Teachers - reaffirming the need to maintain a national pay framework rather than pursuing the introduction of a local system.

We have also secured protection for part-time teachers by recommending they should be covered by all the provisions of the teacher's contract and, most significantly, the introduction of a national approach to calculating their pay. Thousands of part-time teachers - more than 80 per cent women - are subject to the inequalities which can arise from local variations in pay calculations and conditions.

At the heart of the evidence are the proposals on the pay award for 2006-8 and "new teacher professionalism".

For the first time, government, employers and unions have agreed that the factual pay data will be presented to the review body as the basis for its considerations of the level of the teachers' pay award. Those pay partners who wish to do so will submit their views on how this data should be interpreted and have them examined by the review body later this term.

This strategy for addressing the vexed and important issue of the level of headline pay exemplifies the growing confidence and maturity of the partnership.

The joint evidence reintroduces the concept of teachers as autonomous professionals. It balances a teacher's duty to take responsibility for personal professional development with the long-overdue introduction of a contractual entitlement to access to development opportunities.

Teachers' professional duties will all be reviewed. High on this agenda will not only be consideration of the removal of assemblies, breaks and other supervisory duties, but also a detailed debate on the future role and responsibilities of headteachers.

It has taken more than 17 years to reach this position and to shake off the legacy of a government contract in the late 80s which diverted the role of the teacher into that of child minder, social worker and crowd controller.

Finally teachers will be free to teach. Hardly a revolutionary concept, but one which has been absent for far too long.

Chris Keates is general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers


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