EIS backs McCrone

4th August 2000 at 01:00
Secret union memo adds to pressure on ministers to fund radical overhaul of teacher pay and conditions

A CONFIDENTIAL Educational Institute of Scotland analysis of the McCrone inquiry has largely welcomed its findings, fuelling speculation that the union may eventually sign up to the recommendations and pressure the Scottish Executive into providing the funding.

Proposals on pay, career structure and future salary and conditions mechanisms are said to be more or less in line with union policy, leaving reforms to conditions of service as the major stumbling block, as during the failed Millennium Review negotiations.

With further talks imminent on sensitive areas such as five additional days for continuing professional development and the division of non-contact time, union leaders could recommend broad acceptance, despite misgivings about the absence of any reference to smaller classes, a long-standing EIS ambition.

The union's executive council was given a surprisingly upbeat initial report on McCrone at the end of last session with two-thirds of the 41 points said to be similar to EIS policy. The leadership has been coy about its reaction and has suggested there is scope for further extended discussions. Privately, it may view backing the bulk of the McCrone recommendations as the best, or least worst, option.

A special union conference at the end of September will explore the issues in detail followed by a ballot of all members, probably in December if talks between ministers, the unions and employers reach some sort of conclusion.

The analysis of McCrone's pay levels and salary structures is largely supportive. Starting salaries of pound;17,425 are "in line with EIS policy", as are proposals to increase the basic maximum to pound;26,650 in only five incremental steps.

The new concept of chartered teacher status, with salaries ranging from pound;27,419 to pound;34,850, is also "generally in line", although detailed talks will be needed on continuing professional development.

Retention of the principal teacher's post is welcomed. On this, and for deputes and heads, the union wants placement on revised scale to be based on a job evaluation and job sizing exercise. There are concerns about conservation of salaries for teachers who lose out in any shake-up.

Conditions of service remain the key battleground. The equivalent of five extra days for professional development is described as "contentious", requiring "very complex negotiations" on the extent of teacher discretion, the nature of accreditation and appropriate standards.

The split of 30 hours of core activities for teaching, preparation and correction and the remaining five hours for collective school use causes concern. "The extent of teacher autonomy over the use of non-contact time is unclear. This is disappointing but a considerable amount of detail will require to be negotiated prior to implementation," the EIS insists.

The omission of class size cuts is described as "extremely disappointing", while deletion of existing national cover agreements is "disppointing", as is the removal of a protection for temporary staff.

In contrast, the EIS approves of recommendations on initial training, probation, national accreditation of professional development, sabbaticals and integration of class contact time in primary and secondary. Turning to career structures, it backs four grades: classroom teacher, principal teacher, senior managers and headteacher.

Some of early retirement plans are again "in line", others are not. But the recommendation for senior administrative officers in schools with more than 500 pupils and in clusters of smaller schools is strongly endorsed. Increases in classroom assistants and other support staff should be welcomed, the EIS says.

McCrone's call for extra resources to deal with social inclusion and pupil indiscipline are again supported, along with a bureaucracy audit to limit workload, one of the union's principal demands.

While the EIS still maintains the case for the abolition of national negotiations underpined by legislation has yet to be made, it supports the recommendations for voluntary bargaining mechanisms, including a small independent body to review salaries every three years.

Leader, page 8

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