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Secondary moans are moving on

Members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association like a moan with the best of them (page four). But the list of complaints diminishes by the year as the union's numbers expand. Against expectation and despite an ageing workforce, it claims to have raised its membership by a third to around 9,000. This is directly related to the post-McCrone settlement which many in secondary viewed as a sell-out by the Educational Institute of Scotland to its primary members. But the settlement is now better regarded by many members, in private at least.

With last week's salary rise, teachers at the top of the unpromoted scale will have seen their pay surge by a third within seven years without any significant effect on their holiday entitlement, which remains well above other professionals. There is tacit acknowledgement that this is a good deal.

As Professor Lindsay Paterson of Edinburgh University - the teachers'

friend - points out in another forum (page five), central and local government have treated teachers better than any other public service worker. Education has been a priority and money has been injected, despite fears that councils would have to fund the deal down the line. What ministers and council bosses want to see is a more visible return on that investment through a changing climate in schools.

It is never a perfect pay and conditions world and the SSTA, like its rivals, wants more support staff and better back-up for secondary classrooms, which no longer resemble the classrooms in which the majority of parents were taught. Job-sizing and management restructuring remain baffling mysteries to many, and attack the SSTA's core beliefs. More positively, class sizes - a major union gripe for long enough - are steadily reducing, though piecemeal policies from the Scottish Executive have thrown up anomalies between subjects.

What stands out is the lack of references to battles of recent years, such as the workload of Higher Still and wrangles over 35 hours. Now the effects of social inclusion and indiscipline rise to the top of agendas. That is a topic for union unity if ever there was one.

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