THE cost of implementing the McCrone inquiry recommendations over two years could rise to a staggering pound;380 million, almost twice the sum estimated by the independent committee to bring the teaching profession into the 21st century.
Local authorities immediately challenged the figures in the report and calculated the true cost could reach as much as pound;475 million over five years, with 80 per cent of that in the first two years. The committee's advisers, however, insist council leaders are wildly inflating costs and ignoring potential savings from restructuring.
But the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities insists the proposals, if implemented in full, would add almost 20 per cent to current schools budgets of pound;2.8 billion. Norman Murray, Cosla's president, said: "Reform is not going to come cheap."
In a battle of figures that broke out swiftly following publication on Wednesday, the committee is sticking with its calculation that the real extra annual cost will be pound;190 million, money it expects to come from the Scottish Executive.
Danny McCaffery, Cosla's education convener, said Professor Gavin McCrone accepted that his advisers had not attempted to cost every detail, something authorities had to do as employers. "This money has to be found and we as local authorities cannot see how we can fund it. The money must come from central government," Mr McCafferty said. "It costs pound;500 million, so please, Scottish Executive, give us the money and we'll do the job. This is your new price of Scottish education."
In a measured response, the Educational Institute of Scotland echoed the tenor. Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, stressed that ministers must "fully fund the cost of changes to teachers' pay and working arrangements" and any cursory glance at authorities' budgets showed they could never finance such a deal.
Authorities "broadly welcome" the recommendations with Mr McCafferty accepting that the inquiry had met 13 of Cosla's 17 points, including reform of initial teacher education, probation, continuing professional development and career breaks.
Cosla's financial advisers, meanwhile, have pushed up what they say is the true cost of the reform by placing figures against the McCrone wish-list. They say, for example, that continuing professional development would cost 5 per cent on top of basic salaries, adding pound;56 million to the bill.
Earlier, Professor McCrone urged teachers to read his report closely and avoid "knee-jerk reaction". "This is a real chance for he profession and if they do not accept it they will find it difficult to get a better chance. It offers an opportunity to give us the sort of education service we need in the 21st century."
He advised against selecting favoured aspects from what he saw as a complete package. "The recommendations are expensive but we are asking a lot of teachers in return - in changes of conditions of service, more flexibility, professional development and a proper system of staff development and review. Our recommendations are a package and it's not possible to pick and choose.
"You cannot have the increase in pay without the conditions. You cannot expect a change in conditions without an increase in pay. It all hangs together."
Sam Galbraith, Children and Education Minister, commented: "We will need to consider the recommendations carefully in the light of what is needed and what can be afforded."
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP's education convener, said: "The report is very good and is far better than I dared hope for. The danger is that the package gets unpicked. The negotiators have to know the financial context they are working in."
Brian Monteith, Scottish Tory education spokesman, welcomed proposals for enhanced teacher status and more flexible working.
THE UNION REACTION
* The Educational Institute of Scotland, among other concerns, wants assurances that teaching hours will protect members from additional workload, clarification of the chartered and advanced chartered status, safeguards for teachers who lose out in restructuring, more information on principal teacher posts, and detailed talks on promotion procedures.
* The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association welcomed the acknowledgement of the problems facing probationer teachers and those on temporary contracts, as well as the suggestion of a "bureaucracy audit" to curb incessant demands on teachers.
David Eaglesham, its general secretary, said: "Evaluation of any new initiatives is welcome. It's about high time this was done. The working hours are still problematic and it's a very significant area but McCrone has accepted the rationale for retaining princi-
* The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers urged the Executive to introduce higher salaries over one year, not two. It opposes changes to conditions of service and any lengthening of the working year.
* The Professional Association of Teachers praised the McCrone committee for listening to the profession.