A step towards parity but I...

12th September 2003 at 01:00
Last week, secondary teachers confessed how baffled and dispirited they were by the results of the national job-sizing exercise. This week, Raymond Ross asks their primary colleagues if it has been any better for them

You could expect moral in primary schools to be high just now. With 71 per cent of primary management posts upgraded in the recent job-sizing exercise and the introduction of principal teacher posts this session, it would seem the sector has been given a boost.

The Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, which represents primary heads, broadly welcomes the job-sizing exercise and says feedback has been positive mostly, but there are issues affecting management time and structure as well as financial matters that still need to be addressed.

"On the whole, we are happy with the outcome, because primary heads and senior management teams of small to medium schools are now being rewarded for the work being done," says Gordon Smith, salaries convener of the AHTS and headteacher of Jordanhill Primary in Glasgow.

"However, headteachers of large primaries have been job-sized down because (the argument seems to be) there is a management structure already in place in these schools. We feel this is wrong."

Kay Hall, president of the AHTS and headteacher of West Kilbride Primary in North Ayrshire, says: "We welcome the move towards parity and as the weightings become more transparent colleagues will be able to evaluate progress in this area.

"In the few meetings the AHTS had with PricewaterhouseCoopers, we flagged up concern about the prospective weightings. We suspected that size of staff and budget would be significant factors.

"Historically, primary schools have always had far fewer resources than the secondary sector. We argued that managing a school with fewer resources is more difficult than managing a well resourced educational environment.

"It is not clear whether PricewaterhouseCoopers has responded to this challenge, although the job-sizing of colleagues in larger schools with some management support is mostly down a few points," says Mrs Hall.

Mr Smith points out there are anomalies over pay differentials. "Should the head of a small school be getting less than a depute in a larger school, as some now are due to job-sizing?" he asks.

The AHTS has concerns about how many heads now find they are paid substantially less than a depute in a neighbouring school.

"We are beginning to presume that a depute's job-size score impacts on the headteacher's salary point," says Mrs Hall.

"There appear to be anomalies between local authorities, but who actually knows?

"This information will be collated locally but, as yet, it is difficult to predict all the outcomes. Surely the need for transparency is now obvious to everyone."

Like most, if not all, of her primary colleagues, Christine Wilson, headteacher of Langside Primary in Glasgow, welcomes parity with senior sector colleagues.

"I welcome the national initiative to create parity across the sectors in principle, depending of course on the size of your job.

"The point is that in terms of management and leadership we may now be sized differently but on the same scale."

Mr Smith believes the AHTS and the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, which represents secondary heads, should have a role in further developments.

"We'd like more transparency about how the weightings were worked out. Some primary heads have come dancing into meetings because they've been upgraded by pound;4,000, while others have lost pound;3,000.

"We want to be positive and inclusive and that means being part of the process, which is why both headteachers' associations should be on the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers," he says.

"If you want to demoralise teachers, tell them they are worth less than they are getting. Conserving salaries doesn't help psychologically. What you're saying is that the job you're doing is not worth the money you're actually getting.

"Although it's only happening to a small percentage - about 6 per cent - all in larger schools, what we're saying is that this should not be the end of the exercise."

Social deprivation, based on free school meals entitlement levels, has been part of PricewaterhouseCoopers' measurements and the AHTS approves of this apparent means of weighting.

"We welcome the financial recognition afforded to colleagues who are working in areas of deprivation," says Mrs Hall. "Vacancies in these schools are now advertised at higher salary points and appear to be attracting increased numbers of applicants."

The workload for promoted posts in the primary sector is also a critical issue. In fact, some heads would like more management time in preference to more money, says Mrs Hall.

"Over the past six months there has been much comment about how pleased primary heads would be with salary increases. Yet, consistently during this time, concern still revolved around what would happen with management time and management teams," she says.

"During this new session, colleagues who gained from the rises still insist they would consider being resized at a lower salary if only they could be non-teaching or have allocated management time or a management team."

The new primary sector post of principal teacher, although welcomed, is already raising concerns.

Glasgow education department has begun introducing the posts, which are scheduled to be in place by the end of this session. This means that at Langside Primary, for example, the old management structure of headteacher, one depute and an assistant head has been replaced by head, two deputes and a principal teacher.

"On paper this is an advance and we certainly welcomed the idea of PTs as middle managers," says Mrs Wilson. "But lack of resources means that PTs are scaled at 0.1, which restricts the range of duties they can undertake.

They need to be funded at 0.2 to take up line management duties to help manage staff, which we hoped they would be able to do.

"The new depute head and principal teacher posts do not come with guaranteed management time. Management time is a variable depending on the school roll. The key thing is finance."

Mrs Wilson believes extra money is required to fund management time and realise the potential of the new structure. "At present the jam is being spread too thin," she says, blaming conserved salaries for tying up budgets in the authority.

But she is optimistic. "I like to believe this is a transitional period," she says.

Mr Smith says the information the AHTS is getting is that no extra finance will be given to local authorities to fund the new posts and he feels principal teachers' duties should be worked out locally.

"Each local authority has its own idea how a principal teacher should fit into the mangement structure and I believe the PTs' role should be sorted out between the individual headteacher and the local authority," he says.

Glasgow's depute director of education, George Gardner, admits there is a "resource issue" with regard to the new PT posts in the authority. "This means that their management responsibilities are limited for now. As management structure evolves, there is a possibility of PTs taking on line management duties. We may well have to realign resources in order to do this."

Could money saved in the secondary sector through the downsizing of posts eventually find its way into the primary sector?

"We will not know the downsizing effect for many years, so we can't really say anything concrete on that. All we can say at present is that, for the moment, matters of resourcing and timescale remain fairly vague," he says.

Mrs Hall says the AHTS is concerned that the extra money allocated to support the post-McCrone agreement changes has been absorbed. "Some local authorities who had considered they had been underfinanced have now received extra funding. Presumably the many conserved posts will also absorb a further major amount of finance.

"On top of this, funding has been directed towards the secondaries to address some of their major concerns regarding the reduction in guidance posts.

"It appears that there is very little funding left for the primary sector," she says.

"In many local authorities primaries are now chronically undermanaged, far more so than before the McCrone review."

Mrs Hall finds it difficult to be optimistic about the short-term future, as much of the primary funding appears to be dependent on the retirement of secondary teachers who are on conserved salaries.

The whole matter of job-sizing, its effects and implications, lacks leadership at a national level, says Mrs Hall. The process was not without its difficulties; in spite of this, she acknowledges, the exercise was completed virtually on time and local authorities appear to have made a great effort to carry out the procedures efficiently. "However, since the beginning of the changes, national leadership seems to have been missing.

"The decision by the Teachers' Agreement Communications team to celebrate some of the successes of McCrone is one way to address this gap and they should be encouraged to share more of their vision and hopes for the future," she says.

Mr Smith remains dubious about any "finite measure" of job-sizing and regards the process as at a beginning rather than an end.

"The way I prioritise my responsibilities as a headteacher shows what I value in education. But how can you measure that exactly?

"Extra-curricular activities and voluntary responsibilities were not taken into account. Does that mean that Saturday morning sports, outdoor activities weekends, after school clubs, trips abroad with pupils and time spent on local community committees or at Learning and Teaching Scotland meetings and so on are not valued? They certainly weren't taken into account."

Mr Gardner defends the job-sizing exercise. "We have applied a nationally agreed toolkit. Some staff are disappointed and some individuals have reacted strongly. But this is what the unions signed up for. Individuals don't have a cop-out on this. It's part of a negotiated agreement," he says.

Mrs Hall, welcoming financial recognition for primary headteachers' hard work, including weighting towards those working in areas of deprivation, says it is only part of the story in the move towards parity. The structure of management and the time to manage matter at least as much.

"How long we will have to wait for any significant improvement, in management time and management teams, continues to be high on the agenda of primary headteachers throughout Scotland," she says.

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