Competence ratings to move teachers on

17th February 2012 at 00:00
Aberdeen proposes new approach to compulsory transfers

Headteachers are to use a new ratings system of teachers' competence to decide which staff should be compulsorily transferred, under controversial proposals to be ruled on in Aberdeen this month, TESS can reveal.

The council feels it has been forced into this position by the prospect of legal action against the "last in, first out" approach that is standard for compulsory transfers in Scotland, it is understood.

But unions fear that teachers who are transferred would in future carry a "badge of shame", having been deemed least competent.

A draft council document, seen by TESS, applying to all main grade teachers and former principal teachers on conserved salaries, stresses: "In circumstances where a need for compulsory transfer is identified, a `volunteer' should be sought first."

The volunteer with the longest continual service in Aberdeen and predecessor authorities would be offered the transfer - but if volunteers cannot be found an "objective assessment process" would come into play.

Staff would be asked to show how they met a post's requirements, with his or her headteacher awarding a score out of 60 for qualifications and competence.

A subsequent meeting between the teacher, the headteacher, and a human resources adviser would provide a chance to argue for changes, and there would be a right to appeal.

The system would closely match the criteria required to meet the Standard for Full Registration. But teachers would also be judged on "customer focus" - an assessment which risked equating teaching with "going out and buying a scone", said Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association.

The new ratings system was in danger of "completely misusing the standard", she said.

If the proposed system of compulsory transfers is put in place, the union would explore legal action, she warned. "You're failing, so we're moving you to another school," was how she summed up the plan.

It was "shocking" that struggling teachers could be placed in a new school, with the stress that entailed, "instead of giving them support and helping them to improve".

EIS assistant secretary Drew Morrice understood that, rather than being ideologically driven, Aberdeen was pre-empting the possibility of legal challenges against the "last in, first out" approach.

"I would hate to think this is a thin edge of a wedge about performance management," he said.

Legal challenges are understood to be in the offing around Scotland, although Mr Morrice said none had yet come to light.

The system of "last in, first out" had the advantage of being clear and easily understood, he added, and he was unconvinced that it was vulnerable to legal challenge.

Aberdeen's proposed alternative, he believes, could put headteachers in an invidious position, as their subjective judgements would affect teachers' careers.

"Staff would move about the city with a perceived badge of failure," he said. "That's not good for the morale of the individual, or the city as a whole."

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said no comment could be made on draft documents.

But it is believed that city officials want to stress that a number of other councils have been looking at changing their approaches to compulsory transfers.

TESS understands that there have been subsequent versions of the leaked document, but the change of approach outlined originally is still being broadly pursued.

The possible changes are being examined with the involvement of unions, and will be considered at a meeting of the local negotiating committee for teachers later this month.


Inverclyde Council is the only other authority known to have pursued changes to compulsory transfers recently, also apparently prompted by potential legal action. EIS local secretary Tom Tracey said attendance and discipline records would be considered - although not competence - but that it was not clear how this would work in practice.

In the Western Isles, changes were made to compulsory transfers some years ago. Frank Healy, the EIS area officer who covers the authority, said the process had been relatively smooth, with an assessment system used positively to match staff to the most suitable jobs.

Original headline: Heads could use competence ratings to move teachers on

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