In the balance over pay scales

13th February 1998 at 00:00
Should primary heads be paid the same as secondary colleagues? With the Association of Head Teachers campaigning for equal pay, Seonag MacKinnon put the question to secondary heads

"I don't think for a moment there is parity of workload or level of responsibility, largely because of the age of the children and the more formal exam system with a wider curriculum. In general primary heads don't have a great understanding of the range and complexity of problems in secondary, no more than I have a detailed knowledge of primary schools. Recently I had to interview parents over behaviour of a sexual nature. It was a difficult decision whether to involve them or the police. A primary school head is more likely to have to deal with little boys making smutty remarks.

"Another important thing we have to do is have a detailed interview with second years, helping them to make significant choices of courses they will follow in third year. This is a major turning point in their lives and we must be sure we give very sound advice.

"The vast majority of primary teachers do a very good job teaching a broad range of subjects. I certainly couldn't go in and teach P7 maths. "However, I feel I could go in and run a primary school and make a tolerable job of it, even though I would make mistakes. But I don't think that many primary heads could cope with running a secondary."

Headteacher of a medium-sized secondary in north east Scotland "We do not feel bitterly opposed to them seeking increases in salary, but in some ways the secondary head is different. Demands of the timetable are much more complicated. Even with greater support the secondary heads still have greater responsibilities.

"The primary school interfaces with nursery and secondary, whereas secondary interfaces with primary and higher education. At the most senior level, you have classes, which are similar to first year teaching in university. Remuneration should be comparable with that in higher education if we are to attract staff. There is a pecking order and we cannot completely ignore that.

"Secondary heads also have to deal with the distinctive problems of adolescence. They are dealing with young people who are neither children nor adults, and there is a requirement for a style of teaching and interaction, which is distinctive and very skilled. I don't want to take a hard-nosed line. It is fair enough for them to have their position reviewed, but it should be made on the strength of the case they present."

Jim McNair, general secretary of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland "It's like comparing apples with oranges. The jobs are not totally equivalent. We deal with three curricular areas, whereas they deal with just one. We also have Standard grade and Higher Still and significantly more management responsibilities.

"The danger is that it comes across as if we are not supporting our primary colleagues. I have great sympathy with heads, particularly teaching heads doing a very difficult job."

Alex Easton, headteacher at Falkirk High, 1,400 pupils "Knowing the quality of pupils the primary schools send to my school, I think the heads deserve every penny they can get. We get all the recognition from league tables and the proportion of leavers going to university, but we get the pupils they hand over to us.

"I can't speak for urban areas, but by jings the heads in these single-teacher schools in the Highlands have a job on their hands. They may not have many pupils but they have a wide age range to juggle and a pile of bureaucracy and mail to fit in. People think it must be super with 12 or 20 pupils, but it has its pressures.

They have to plough a very lonely furrow year after year. They have to fit in with remote communities where the school is the focus and there is no anonymity, no hiding place. They have to be very diplomatic and there is nobody there to back them up. Anyone running a school has pressures, but at secondary we can share that. They can't.

"As for qualifications, I've known of one secondary where they said that only staff with Honours degrees could teach Higher classes. That is a lot of hooey. Some people maintain that primary staff are not properly trained, but I don't care whether someone is honours, PhD or what.

"I've no idea what primary heads earn but if they pulled up with my salary, I wouldn't mind."

Neil Wilkie, headteacher Gairloch High, Highland, a 210-pupil secondary with the largest catchment area in Scotland - 700 square miles "The job is very much on a par in terms of the big responsibility, but in terms of scale the secondary head's job is greater.The primary head is challenged by all the assessment, planning of staff trying to cover as individual teachers all the curricular areas. Overseeing and delivering all that is a major challenge that I don't have to face and I have nothing but admiration for the way they do it. But there is a reality of scale and cognisance must be taken of that. We have more youngsters and more personnel. If there were a tiered pay scale which took cognisance of scale, I would have no problem with that."

Ian Somerville, headteacher of 1,040-pupil roll Clyde Valley High School, North Lanarkshire

MAYBE "I have no direct experience of primary, so it would be unfair of me to make a judgment. I do, however, feel that these days we more than earn our money. The curriculum is a complex affair with so many departments and subject areas to manage.

But I do feel that heads in primary schools with 80 per cent teaching time in a three-to-four teacher school, with all the curricular materials to implement and all the decrees from Government and the local authority with the added burden of devolved school management, have a very difficult role."

Rob Kerr, headteacher of 1,000-pupil Peebles High School, Borders "As more highly trained staff come into primary schools, I get the impression there is an encouraging trend for teachers to think about what they are doing according to educational principles."

Anonymous staff association member in urban south of Scotland NO COMMENT A lot has been done to help bridge the primary-secondary divide and there is a danger of this issue, the publicity over it, being divisive. For me it is a matter for the staff associations. Thank you."

Headteacher of a medium-sized secondary in central Scotland

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