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Pincer attack on teachers' hours

SECONDARY headteachers and directors of education have joined common cause in calling for radical changes to teachers' conditions of service, including a redefinition of working hours.

Heads are still demanding increased flexibility over the working week and year to allow for staff development, homework clubs and other out-of-school activities, while directors want to see a 35-hour week, in line with other council workers.

They are also pressing for the removal of staff development and training from the pupil day. "It is quite indefensible that most in-service training for teachers can take place only by disrupting the service to pupils. There needs to be time available outwith normal school hours for teachers' professional development," Keir Bloomer, president of the Association of Directors of Education, said.

As submissions to the McCrone inquiry on teachers' pay and conditions flood in, unions remain hostile to any revision of the working week which hands control of the bulk of non-class contact time to heads, a key stumbling block in the failed Millennium Review negotiations.

The difference between the 27.5 hours teachers are currently required to work at the direction of heads and the notional 35-hour week local authorities say teachers should be working to is likely to be central to the McCrone recommendations, still expected in late May.

The Headteachers' Association of Scotland reiterates its plea for "major change" to conditions, arguing: "Increased non-class contact time within a finite week and year, properly managed and focused, would allow schools to undertake the range of duties and tasks demanded of them."

The directors say only that, within the 35 hours, "a maximum period of class contact should be laid down as at present".

Both heads and directors echo the now insisent call for substantial pay increases to be met in full by the Scottish Executive. In similar vein, the Professional Association of Teachers this week called for starting salaries of pound;18,000 and finishing salaries of pound;30,000 for classroom teachers.

The HAS's proposals for promoted post structures are likely to draw particular attention from the unions. Heads want more flexibility over the number of assistant headteachers' posts, a bursar appointed at senior management level and faculty heads responsible for "a modal group of subjects". A faculty head for pupil support would co-ordinate guidance and learning and pupil support. "Subject leaders would be appointed where required by the school to support faculty heads," the HAS says.

Meanwhile directors say the promoted post structure should be overhauled and simplified and "teachers engaged fully in all matters that affect them". They also back reform of the school year, with a shorter summer holiday and regular breaks throughout the year. "This could help pupils to retain learning and avoid the deterioration in behaviour which tends to take place towards the end of long terms."

Highland's submission - drafted by Bruce Robertson, director of education and an adviser to Professor Gavin McCrone - suggests the inquiry "should not simply tinker round the edges" but opt for a radical overhaul.

The council urges "a slight reduction of teachers' holidays to allow for essential professional development". Five in-service days are inadequate and the pupil year of 190 days cannot be reduced any further, it says.

Highland also calls for a rethink on teacher training. "In that we have a 5-14 curriculum, why don't we produce teachers able to teach in both primary and secondary schools? How much of the social inclusion agenda are students aware of?"

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