Bring on McCrone;Leading Article

29th October 1999 at 01:00
OUR predictions over several months have proved correct. Or to be precise, we were slightly out: teachers have settled for 0.1 per cent more than we said would finally be on the table. The Education Minister, like the employers and unions, was happy to avoid industrial action this winter and added pound;7 million to the pot. Conditions of service remain unaffected. In other words, the pattern established over recent years of an award around the going rate for public services and close to that given to teachers south of the border, who have no say in its amount, was maintained.

So where do we go from here? The McCrone committee is charged with doing what the local authorities and unions unsuccessfully tackled themselves, modernising the profession in exchange for an enhanced level of pay. The fact that the Government stands ready to act upon what Professor McCrone comes up with sends a long awaited signal that reliance on direct bargaining is no longer possible.

True, Sam Galbraith, the Education Minister, has assured the unions that Professor McCrone's recommendations will not be binding. But they will give him a basis on which to act. For the classroom teacher the fate of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee - which much concerns the Educational Institute of Scotland - will be far less important than proposals on the promotion and pay structure, hours of work and class sizes.

These of course were the areas explored in the talks following the Millennium Review. This year's impasse will be met again in the spring. Hopefully, some lessons will have been absorbed by the McCrone committee and the Executive.

Dismantling the management of secondary school subjects was not a clever idea when Higher Still is being phased in. The size of composite classes should not be a ground for dispute.

Most important, there should be real opportunity for teachers to weigh up the pros and cons of a package.

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