Advancing professionalism is a nasty, fever-inducing disease

23rd September 2011 at 01:00
Running through McCormac's recommendations is a nagging tone that raises blood pressure

Advancing professionalism"! Is it only me or does this phrase have the ring of some unwelcome fungal disease? Professor McCormac's review on Advancing Professionalism in Teaching is not written from an anti-teacher perspective - it spends time praising Scottish teachers: "committed, energetic and hard-working" and doing a "very demanding job in difficult circumstances"; and, yet, running through its 34 recommendations (that's 84 on the go, counting Donaldson) is a constant nagging tone of criticism that suggests some more blood might be squeezed, or sacrificed, from the stone.

In staffrooms, the report has not produced as sharp a reaction as it might have done if it had endorsed some of Cosla's more blatant cost-cutting attacks, almost anti- climactic in some respects, but teachers are aware that the recommendations are merely the battleground for future engagement.

There is a pious tone to much of the document's rhetoric, especially in the absence of any resource calculations. It bemoans the fact that Stage 4 (consideration of removing the time allocations) of the agreement for the 21st century was never enacted. Of course, the proposal to revisit this area was predicated on the development of collegial practice to the point where the profession might feel comfortable with removal of reservations. The fact that no party on the SNCT ever felt confident enough about progress to even table the discussion speaks volumes.

Progress has been made, but collegial practice is not yet a hallmark of our education system. In trying to usher in changes in this area, McCormac's report fails to take stock of the reality that many teachers feel they are excluded from decision making in their schools and that too many education directorates remain unwilling to trust the professionalism of practitioners.

The report's comments on chartered teacher status say it all. It argues for a masters-level profession but endorses the removal of a programme that has done more than any other to move us towards that goal.

And what is to replace chartered teacher in terms of leadership experience? Temporary promoted posts in the gift of headteachers - an open door to the promulgation of patronage in our schools

Working time agreements, a straightforward mechanism for attempting to quantify the resources and time required to implement school improvement plans, should not be a "negotiation" but a collegial process.

There is little in the report to excite or entice the profession. Perhaps the disease is more akin to a "creeping paralysis" - one that we must work against?

Larry Flanagan is education convener for the Educational Institute of Education.

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