Bloomer spells outneed for change

19th September 1997 at 01:00
Secondary heads train their guns on millennium review as they call on Labour for new deal on funding.

The millennium review of teachers' pay and conditions will be a "complete failure" if it follows the pattern of the previous review that collapsed without agreement in 1992, Keir Bloomer, director of education in Clackmannan, told secondary heads last week at their annual conference in St Andrews.

Mr Bloomer, addressing the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, called for a "tight time-scale and concrete outcomes". The first of a series of review meetings is expected to take place shortly.

He said: "Since the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee and its predecessor were set up in 1965, there have been 30 salary increases and 27 have fallen below the going rate. Three have not, Houghton, Clegg and Main. So much for collective bargaining. Every negotiated settlement has been a failure."

Negotiations on working conditions had not delivered either, Mr Bloomer said. "The reaction to the ill-fated nineties review demonstrates there are plenty of activists only too willing to try to defend every jot and tittle of every ill-advised agreement in the very different conditions of the past. But there are some signs of change.

"In most parts of Scotland, three-day cover, for example, is dead and there is a widespread recognition of the need for change in the ways schools are managed and the profession structured."

Mr Bloomer argued for a broad redefinition of teachers' roles and said a range of professionals, support staff and volunteers would be involved in the school of the future. Social work could become a focus and the attack on social deprivation required schools to take a broad view of what constitutes education.

The education system was being asked not only to support the family but to substitute for it, although many teachers were ill-equipped for the task. "How many teachers have we all heard complain: 'I didn't come into this job to be an untrained social worker.' And yet, that is perhaps exactly where the future of schools as institutions lies," he said.

Young people often failed because there were unprepared to learn due to impoverished circumstances. A primary teacher in Alloa told him recently that on a trip to Stirling a primary 7 girl said that she had never travelled that far before.

"What sense will she make of history, geography or modern studies?" Mr Bloomer asked. School was not a place of interest and excitement for them.

Other children were coming to school "ill-clad, not properly fed, not slept".

In the United States, the concept of the "full-services school" had captured the imagination as schools became a single door for delivering public services. "At the very least, we must move to a position where extracurricular activities are not extra, where supported homework schemes are the norm and where health and nutrition are a normal part of the school's remit," Mr Bloomer said.

Ten years ago in the former Strathclyde Region, he had recommended that the best way of tackling deprivation was to ensure that every pupil left with three Highers. "This view was not particularly well received. However, it is exactly the perspective which now informs Government thinking. Deprivation can be combated, not through community development schemes and urban aid schemes, but by the individual success of every young person, secured through the schools. "

Responding to Mr Bloomer's speech, Jim Dalziel, headteacher of Eastbank Academy, Glasgow, said the one area that the Conservative government had not tackled was teacher contracts.

"We need more flexibility in the way we use our teachers. We need a better employee-employer relationship and we will never have the six or seven courses in first year for the juniors, especially in the west of Scotland, until we change teachers' contracts," Mr Dalziel said.

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