A care plan to help the patient survive resizing

28th March 2003 at 00:00
As the promoted posts structure goes under the surgeon's scalpel, the unions must stay vigilant, says Sheena Taylor

THOSE who complain that the current job-sizing exercise has not fully described their jobs by placing some ticks in one or two boxes have not grasped that the toolkit does not set out to describe the whole job. Many unpromoted and some promoted staff, such as senior teachers and assistant principal teachers, also carry out the preparation, marking, behaviour management, stress and crowd control and voluntary extras not captured by the questionnaire.

But by focusing on the contractual, additional responsibilities the questionnaire does indeed deny postholders the opportunity to record adequately those cross-curricular, co-operative developments which are truly inventive. This is particularly invidious, since inflexibility in cross-curricular activity is precisely what the profession has been criticised for.

Why has there been so little outcry? The profession has taken the money and signed the permission for surgery, which may include amputations, grafts and bypasses, as the surgeon deems necessary. Individual patients believe benefits to them will outweigh risks. In bigger schools, there may be salary conservation; smaller school postholders expect rises; assistant heads welcome becoming depute heads and climbing a rung in the promotion ladder without competition; primary staff look forward to additional posts once the initial operation is over.

Then there are those who welcome the addition to the lump sum and pension; those too young to know any better and those so stressed or tired that they are numb to anything other than surviving from one day to the next. These considerations stifle the expression of fears and act like a kind of pre-med, calming the nerves, relaxing the muscles and reducing anxiety.

So, quietly, we submit. But who will take on much that is new without their job being resized? Now that our subject areas or pastoral care roles have been valued as worth more or less than our neighbour's, do we have the same feeling of sharing in a common enterprise?

Yet the treatment is undoubtedly necessary. Although level of responsibility does not necessarily equate with hours spent on a task, many people will tell you it is not just money they require. What they really need is time for additional management duties. The couple of extra hours they have at present, doled out in 40-minute parcels in the day, don't go very far.

Authorities across the country are currently compiling the post-operative care plan for the patient. The aim is to remove some of the myriad chores rightly not captured by the toolkit: the collecting of money for this or that, the recording and dissemination of information and other routine activities.

The intended outcome is not only to free teachers to teach but, inevitably, financial pressures may well lead to a reduction in the number of promoted posts - these are the dissections and amputations hidden in the small print.

But then, before any beneficial grafting, some preparatory work is necessary. The greater flexibility of a more responsive salary structure within a smaller number of levels could be just what authorities need to help beleaguered staff and a curriculum too resistant to change.

The crux of the matter seems to be that the time to do the job properly is built into whatever system is adopted as a sacrosanct part of the arrangements; otherwise the patient will relapse. Here our unions need to be particularly vigilant.

In one of its most controversial areas, namely the principal teacher structure in secondary, current postholders are protected. In the future, would we have to fear a system in which a faculty head would be paid at one of the higher points on the principal teacher scale and subject specialists paid at a lower level to manage areas of the curriculum within the faculty - provided that the time to do the job is built in?

It is probably too late to adopt a model once used in England and still available to the independent sector, whereby schools have a salary points allocation, a global figure, which can be used to suit local circumstances.

This would make it possible to recognise extra responsibilities and restore the co-operative attitudes most at risk in the current exercise. Surely it is not unreasonable to expect a care plan to suit individual patients rather than a single panacea for all.

Sheena Taylor was formerly head of Albyn School for Girls in Aberdeen. She writes in a personal capacity.

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