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Specialists ready to shake up primaries

The country's 22,500 primary teachers should brace themselves for a "culture change" in little over a year when the maximum number of hours in front of their classes is cut from 25 to 23.5 hours a week. By 2006, it will drop to 22.5 hours.

Primary teachers are traditionally responsible for one class but will have to get used to sharing it with specialists and others brought in to cope with the reduction in hours.

The "bottom line", according to the Scottish ExecutiveConvention of Scottish Local Authorities team detailing how the post-McCrone agreement may work, is that specialists working in an individual school or a cluster of schools will end up taking charge of their lessons. They will plan and teach, assess and record and release time for the class teachers to prepare, it is suggested.

The quiet revolution in upper primary classes is backed by Scottish Executive ministers, who in May signed up in the LabourLiberal Democrat partnership agreement to more use of specialist teachers.

The Teachers' Agreement Communications Team (Tact) says: "There will have to be a culture change in the way primary schools see specialists and in the way that specialists see their role. At worst, the specialist repeats a similar lesson in a number of primary schools with little liaison as regards the needs of individual schools. However, best practice sees specialists working closely with the school and this needs to be established in any new system."

Before issuing its consultative papers as schools broke up, the team sounded out headteachers in three different parts of the country.

The team accepts there are concerns among primary heads about deploying specialists.

As the team admits: "Some primary teachers are fearful that they would be tied to the specialists provided by the authority or available from a secondary timetable. Although a primary may have teachers skilled in, say, modern languages, they fear they still might end up taking a languages specialist because that was the only one available."

Primary staff are also concerned about the quality of secondary specialists who may be dumped on primaries because they cannot secure jobs elsewhere.

"They worry about the quality of lessons, especially where composite classes are concerned," the Tact team points out.

There is a further fear that secondary teachers working in primary may insist on working with a set number of pupils, defined by the practical size limits in secondaries. Heads are also concerned about the time for liaison with specialists.

Schools which increase staffing levels may find similar difficulties.

An Executive spokeswoman said: "The most obvious change is that the same teacher will not be with the class all week. There is no single way of managing this development and it is expected local authorities will wish to use a variety of models to meet the needs of pupils in their area."

Leader, 14

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