Like a jigsaw puzzle in the dark

22nd August 2003 at 01:00
Neil Munro wrestles with the mysteries of the job-sizing exercise

THE working group of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT), responsible for deciding the winners and losers in the job-sizing process, met in Edinburgh this week to begin what is known as the "resizing" of promoted posts.

The Scottish Executive believes this will begin to make even the most voluble critics "more familiar and comfortable with the toolkit and therefore more accepting of it", as one official put it.

Resizing is designed to provide criteria that should be applied when major changes take place in a school, such as shifts in population or a management restructuring, which would have implications for jobs and their worth. The mix of factors and the level or scale of change that would be necessary before deciding whether posts should have salaries conserved - or left unchanged or increased - has yet to be agreed.

As headteachers and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association line up to castigate both the mechanics of the exercise and its outcome, the Educational Institute of Scotland is left to mount a vigorous defence along with a less voluble Executive.

The official mantra remains that "everything was agreed as a package and will be implemented as a package". This comes only just ahead of the stock response of "we recognise that some people will be disappointed". And close behind is the third refrain that "only those dissatisfied with the outcome will tend to raise their voices".

The Executive acknowledges that "there needs to be a better understanding of the process and that will develop over time, when promoted posts fall vacant and are advertised for example. That will show that the mix of duties will work as the toolkit intends."

But one of the first tranches of job-sized posts to be advertised, by North Lanarkshire in last week's TES Scotland, carried a salary range for secondary principal teachers from pound;31,299 for a PT work enterprise and vocational education (the same as for two primary PT posts) to pound;40,401 for a PT science.

One of the problems in evaluating that kind of outcome is that neither PricewaterhouseCoopers, which devised the toolkit, nor the SNCT, which approved it, has agreed to publish details such as the weightings used to produce scores for deprivation. This is what has led to charges of lack of transparency - although, in fact, free meal entitlement is the only criterion used to decide the deprivation weighting for posts, and was agreed by all parties.

Despite this being the age of freedom of information, a conscious decision was taken not to publish a mass of data which the Executive believes would have produced confusion rather than clarity, as teachers alighted on aspects in isolation that they felt had been overscored or underscored.

"It's the overall weight given to posts that matters and the consistency of the final result," one official close to the process said.

The Executive insists ministers did not have expectations of any particular result, although it and the other parties to the agreement knew that job-sizing 13,000 promoted posts was inevitably going to mean significant changes.

An official said: "We could have decided to tinker at the edges but that would not have delivered what all the parties agreed was necessary to secure an overall agreement, or indeed would not have moved away from what even the unions said was an archaic system of measuring promoted posts on the single factor of the school roll."

He added: "We wanted something that would make sound judgments in the way jobs are measured, something that was equality-proof in relation to salaries in the primary and secondary sectors and something which had a sensible consistency to it."

The Executive insists that it has achieved all these goals. "If someone is heading a large department with a large staff, a large budget and a large number of exam presentations, that is inevitably going to have a positive impact on the job score compared with a principal teacher in a smaller department - and it has impacted consistently in the jobs scores so that, for example, heads of English and maths departments are scored more highly."

According to a spokesman: "If you compare the outcome within authorities, between authorities, within schools and between schools, and you take into account all the correlations of responsibilities for budgets, staff, pupils, levels of deprivation and so on, the right relationships are there and they are consistently there."

Guidance, the focus of particular criticism because principal teachers appear to have lost out in comparison with subject posts, has been fairly and consistently dealt with, the Executive maintains.

"Where guidance PTs have staffing and budgetary responsibilities, that is reflected," an official said. "It is, after all, a management toolkit and guidance responsibilities of promoted posts do vary considerably across Scotland. Levels of deprivation and caseload will be part of the mix as well, and that is particularly relevant in guidance."

The Executive says there are two broad categories of complaint, one that the exercise has produced entirely random results and the other that all principal teachers of guidance in a school have been downgraded to the same level. "Both cannot be right," an insider said. "The outcome cannot be both random and produce that consistent result. They might not like the result of course, but that is another matter and I entirely recognise that."

Officials are urging teachers to look at "the consistency in the toolkit rather than making comparisons, however understandable it might be, with a system for arriving at salaries for promoted posts based on the single factor of the school roll, which nobody defends.

"The main reaction has been from those who have not liked the result of the exercise rather than looking objectively at the criteria in the toolkit."

Letters, page 2

Viewpoint, page 12

THE BIG FREEZE

Promoted staff who have gained out of the job-sizing exercise will have their increases backdated to August 1.

The vast majority of those whose posts have been downgraded will have their salaries conserved, but pay will still be increased in line with inflation.

A small group who were appointed to posts knowing they would be job-sized will simply be cash conserved.

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