All change, time to let go of extra tasks

19th September 2003 at 01:00
When I am politically correct I talk about "the national agreement". When my staff discuss it, they refer to "McCrone". To be right up-to-date, we should talk about "the teachers' agreement", although I can't help thinking that this is just the wish and prayer of some of the Teachers' Agreement Communications team.

The teachers' agreement has impacted on our lives at Queensferry Primary right from the start of term. By chance a senior teacher was promoted to a nursery headship and the way was cleared to appoint a principal teacher, which we have done successfully. We must now define her remit, which will affect where she starts on the pay scale.

The standby position was 0.1 of the PT scale. She was keen to join the senior management team but I am reminded that principal teachers are not members or they would be eligible to be paid on the depute headteacher scale. That would be acceptable if the authority was paying but, of course, there is no new money and all extra salary will have to be found from the existing school budget.

She can, of course, join management meetings as a guest for her own information, if she wishes, rather than as a duty.

Soon I will meet with a colleague to do the PT's job-sizing exercise. Now that is an interesting task. There is more secrecy around job-sizing than in the Hutton Inquiry.

Points will be awarded for teaching hours, for the free meal entitlement of the school, for the roll of the school, for the number of teachers she line manages and everything else of relevance in Annex B of A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century.

The secrecy is such that I have no way of checking whether or not my own job-sizing was completed accurately.

With the possibility of a new management structure, we have set out to make changes now.

No longer will I cover lunch duties: I will leave that to our very capable support staff. I did like to see the pupils in this informal setting. I noticed many small details which told a story that needed to be told and could be followed up. However, in the spirit of new ways of working, we are changing.

I am also trying to be involved in as many learning and teaching duties as possible.

We took the plunge and passed nursery enrolment to the business manager, although that was not easy to let go. There are so many advantages in meeting families personally but this is largely an administrative duty.

Another task which was passed to the business manager was the organisation of learning assistants (formerly called special educational needs auxiliaries). There is still the need for meetings to share details about which children need support and for how long, but the hours spent collating the detailed staffing sheets is no longer my task. This does not free time in school, as it was always completed at home where there would be no interruptions; so, no extra time there for learning and teaching tasks.

We are beginning to think about the reduction in class contact time which will begin next August (to 23.5 hours) for each class teacher. In August 2006 it will be further reduced to 22.5 hours. We'll need to consider timetabling arrangements and sharing responsibilities for classes. We may try to have 45-minute blocks of teaching to help with this.

It would be wonderful to have specialist music or science teachers appointed to enhance the work our class teachers already do but the reality is that we may well want to retain the best of our class teachers.

We may choose an existing class teacher to teach information and communications technology across the school. That would enable one person to keep up to date with software developments, manage the school website and complete the many other tasks which would inevitably come his or her way.

Of course, politicians wish to use this opportunity to bring back music, physical education, art and so on and provide extra funding for us to do this.

As a child at Ayr Grammar, I had a PE teacher who was part of the staff five days a week and a full range of visiting specialists. Young pupils also had some science teaching as the school catered for five- to 16-year-olds and secondary teachers could help in the primary department.

The science strategy group is trying to ensure that some of the recent funding given to schools is used for that.

Did someone say something about coming full circle?

Sheilah Jackson is headteacher of Queensferry Primary, Edinburghwww.queensferry-ps.edin.sch.ukIf you have any comments, e-mail

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