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Secondary heads call for contract overhaul

Secondary heads have called for a radical overhaul of teachers' "outdated and inflexible" conditions of service which they claim constrain their ability to manage.

There will be no chance of educational progress in many areas unless politicians attempt to change the conditions of all staff, the Headteachers' Association of Scotland has advised Helen Liddell, Labour's education spokeswoman.

Replying to the party's blueprint for education, the HAS maintains the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee has failed to address current needs, especially those of senior staff. It blames the dominance of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

John Mitchell, HAS president and head of Kilsyth Academy, told The TES Scotland that a successor body to the SJNC should investigate the inflexibility in the promoted post structure, in the split of teaching and non-teaching time in the working week, and in the time set aside for curriculum development. Extra-curricular activities should also be studied.

In its evidence, the HAS maintains heads should have a flexible, responsive and co-operative teaching force if Labour wants to engage them in a compact with parents. But it warns: "The current contract of employment allows an easy, and legal, withdrawal from much of what is implied in the paper."

Instead, the heads recommend two options. The first is a two-level contract, comprising a basic national contract, plus a locally negotiated contract which dictates specific duties at school level. Option two would be a new national contract which would allow for all staff to be allocated additional duties each year to cover the needs of the school.

Among its other points, the HAS backs the principle of rewarding good classroom teachers but simultaneously supports wider differentials between unpromoted and promoted staff. The present difference in salaries may be too small to encourage teachers to move school or home to gain promotion, it states.

The HAS further backs Labour's controversial proposals to sack poor teachers. "There comes a stage where teachers are giving a bad service to children and there is a need for new mechanisms to remove them," Mr Mitchell said.

In its submission, HAS emphasises: "Poor teachers do exist. Fortunately their numbers are small. Unlike most professions where a poor colleague can be sidelined and given less onerous tasks, pupils deserve the best possible staff and action must be taken to protect classes from the effects of a failing teacher."

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