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Teachers exit the nursery in Falkirk

Senior nursery nurses in Falkirk are set to take over key classroom duties from teachers.

Following a pay and conditions deal for nursery nurses with the local branch of Unison, the authority has moved quickly to approve a new structure for nursery classes, despite the concerns of primary headteachers.

A pilot staffing model over the past two years, evaluated by researchers from Stirling University, has now been turned into council policy.

Difficulties in recruiting enough primary teachers to meet the post-McCrone deal on cuts in contact time and smaller classes is forcing the rethink, the authority says.

That means the current model of nursery teachers working alongside the appropriate number of nursery nurses "will not prove sustainable".

Nigel Fletcher, head of policy and quality assurance, said: "It is essential that teacher input is focused where it is most useful, in promoting effective learning through direct teaching and curriculum support."

The authority considered three options before plumping for nursery classes to be staffed by a senior nursery nurse, backed by a number of nursery nurses depending on pupil numbers.

Primary headteachers will then be responsible for management and quality assurance of the nursery class and will be supported by "an additional staffing element for direct teaching and curriculum support to be used flexibly".

Early years teachers will be allocated to each primary on a sliding scale related to the roll of the nursery class. There will be no peripatetic nursery teachers managed from the centre after the pilot highlighted problems with communication and continuity. Mr Fletcher said there were no cost savings in the revised structure which would mean more adults in nursery classes.

A consequence of freeing teachers in nursery may be that nursery teachers move on to become early years teachers in primary. Falkirk believes this would help solve recruitment problems.

Primary heads backed the status quo in February but have conceded that the new option is a way forward. Teacher unions stressed that a half of a full-time equivalent post was the minimum required to deliver the curriculum in each nursery.

Tom Coleman, the authority's SNP education convener, said: "The conclusion of the recent dispute has seen a more flexible role develop for nursery nurses in the future. We are keen to enhance these roles in order to provide a better service for younger children."

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