Skip to main content

Struggles in the maze of the decade

Every decade of late has been heralded by words and phrases only intelligible to the cognoscenti in education. In the Seventies, ROSLA pupils were those caught in the headlights when the Government raised the school leaving age to 16. The teenagers whose aspirations to freedom were rudely dashed undertook a unanimous decision across the nation to raise merry hell until the gates were unlocked.

The Eighties brought Standard grade, with careers built on extended grade-related criteria. The Technical and Vocational Education Initiative wheeled barrowloads of shekels into a cash-starved system, an early example of the art of ringfencing, perfected by New Labour.

Quality assurance was the slogan of the Nineties, with performance indicators, development planning and targets from heaven. Staff development and appraisal had as many launches under different names as the space shuttle, to take account of the sensibilities of the times.

When the story of the turn of the millennium is written, there will be honourable mentions for the public-private partnerships and for national priorities, but one word will stand out as encapsulating the mood of the moment. It is no abstract concept lifted from the glossary of management handbooks, but a simple Scottish name: McCrone.

Even Gavin McCrone is fed up with McCrone. The Edinburgh University professor and former senior civil servant who was plucked from his post to chair the committee of inquiry into teachers' pay and conditions is frustrated and disillusioned by the petty squabbling and nit-picking which have followed publication of his report.

Its main proposals were excellent: a substantial pay rise in return for increased flexibility in working practices and promotion structures. Over the past 19 months, the report has been eviscerated in the bear-pit of education. The dissection of the 35-hour week has been a gift to the sophists, who know their collegiate time from their additional pupil activity time.

While accord has been reached locally on the shape of the week, most conscientious teachers are scornful of minute-counting, box-ticking approaches to their work. They want ordered schools, fair pay and appreciation for their efforts. If they are on offer, their dedication knows no bounds.

Rory Mackenzie, Edinburgh's seconded headteacher on McCrone issues, addressed a group of more than 50 Holy Rood teachers on future promotion structures, continuous professional development, the teacher induction scheme for probationers, bursars and winding down. He was on his feet for 90 minutes and provided a virtuoso performance, without notes. We emerged better informed, but acutely aware of many questions unresolved nationally.

Job-sizing is a great concern for staff, affecting salaries and promotion prospects. The McCrone report indicates there will be fewer promoted posts in secondary schools, but national guidance in this area is scant. Aberdeenshire has bitten the bullet, with eight curriculum and five pastoral managers at the new Meldrum Academy. It is perhaps the first real attempt at restructuring in practice.

Usually at this time of year we are ferreting around in search of fresh blood. This session, we have to wait and see the hand that Edinburgh is dealt by the new teacher induction scheme.

After Rory broached the concept of "winding down", several colleagues were disappointed that the age of eligibility had imperceptibly crept up from 55 to 56, removing the tantalising elixir of retirement one step further from their grasp.

Rory is a big help as we negotiate the labyrinth of McCrone.

Pat Sweeney is headteacher at Holy Rood High School, Edinburgh

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you