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Pay climbdown on late entrants

MATURE students have won significant concessions from the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers in their campaign for a leg up the pay ladder.

All one-year probationers who begin in August will still be paid the basic salary of almost pound;17,000. But if mature entrants secure a post after that will they be placed higher up the revised pay scales if they have relevant previous experience.

The deal sealed last week will see teachers gaining one extra salary point for five years' recognised experience, two points for up to 10 years'

experience, an extra three for up to 15 and a maximum of four for more than 15 years.

A statement from the SNCT, which includes the Scottish Executive, said:

"This means that teachers with substantial experience who complete the new one-year probationary period in August 2003 will be able to earn pound;27,198."

Most would receive substantially less, since the average age of mature students is 29. The deal is not just a one-off to ease this year's embarrassment and it will be up to employers to define what relevant experience is. It could include voluntary work with children or a previous career which would be relevant to subject teaching, such as a chemist with ICI.

Gary Wallace, a one-year postgraduate student at Strathclyde University, who has been prominent in a vociferous campaign for an improved deal, said:

"This is a lot better than what we thought we were getting and there's recognition of our problems."

Pauline Ward, a postgraduate student at Northern College, has "mixed views" and is thinking about re-registering as a nurse, given that she will not pick up a full salary for at least a year.

Mature students complained that the implications of the McCrone package were not made clear until the middle of their first term and said they had entered the one-year courses on the assumption that their age would be recognised in starting salaries.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "This is a very fair and positive deal that should provide real incentives for mature people to contemplate a career switch."

Brian Monteith, the Scottish Tories' education spokesman, said it appeared to be a deal that "will save face for all those who forgot about mature entrants".

Mr Smith said it would be up to local authorities to use placement regulations sensibly so that they avoid challenges from mature teachers who feel other councils have better deals.

The union is strongly backing the probationary year and the salary that goes with it, despite pressure from mature students. The reality, it says, was that most staff started off with bits and pieces of work, precisely the unsatisfactory situation it was desperate to remove.

The SNCT has also agreed to work with the Scottish Public Pensions Agency on a winding down scheme for teachers that is due to be implemented from August, although the starting date may slip. It will allow teachers aged 56 and over to work part-time in the build-up to retirement. The scheme needs Treasury approval.

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