EIS issues alert on new primary posts

19th August 2005 at 01:00
A warning against abuse of the new principal teacher posts in primary schools was issued this week by the leader of the largest union.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, has expressed concern which he claims is emerging in primaries over management restructuring, already a contentious issue in the secondary sector.

Mr Smith said: "There are some early signs that primary schools are missing out the depute's post and using the principal teacher as a lower paid substitute for a depute. That is a bit like history repeating itself with the old senior teachers."

Senior teacher posts were created following the teachers' dispute in the 1980s to reward teachers who wished to stay in the classroom rather than opt for management - almost a forerunner of the chartered teacher. But they became discredited as schools increasingly loaded additional duties on them, using senior teachers effectively to carry out management tasks.

"There must be clarity that the role of PT should not be a low cost depute headteacher," Mr Smith commented. There was some anecdotal evidence that, where there were shared headships in smaller schools, PTs were being inappropriately deployed as deputes for the headteacher.

Mr Smith feared there would be a subtle shift in which PTs would be given added burdens, such as responsibility for developing policies. The head would then end up merely as "a ticker of boxes for checking that there is a policy, as opposed to developing the policy".

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, echoed Mr Smith's concerns, saying that in some very remote schools authorities were not even putting PTs in place. The AHTS would be watching the new structures closely and would be concerned if PTs were used as deputes "on the cheap".

Meanwhile, one of the fiercest proponents of radical restructuring in school management has urged schools to press ahead. Roger Stewart, head of education in Fife, says there is little correlation between the percentage of promoted posts in a school and pupils' attainment.

This was borne out by a benchmarking exercise he carried out recently, comparing a school with nearly 70 per cent of teachers in promoted posts to one with nearly 50 per cent.

Writing in The TES Scotland this week, Mr Stewart asked why schools required structures in which 49-68 per cent of secondary teachers were in promoted posts. "Better surely to promote the opportunities for the class teacher to enjoy the freedom and responsibility for their own classes," he said.

He added: "The idea that, say, a history department with three staff, including an enhanced professional of three to four years' experience and a chartered teacher, needs a PT to lead them is, to say the least, questionable."

His advocacy of a school management system, where there are fewer teachers in principal teacher posts but where those in middle management have more leadership responsibilities and fewer classroom teaching duties, has led to calls by the local EIS association in Fife for further talks within the local negotiating committee for teachers.

David Farmer, publicity officer for Fife EIS, said the union had negotiated good agreements with the council over some aspects of management restructuring. "But we are not always sure that these agreements have been stuck to by the council," Mr Farmer said.

The authority had been spending considerable sums on management restructuring at a time when cuts in education spending were anticipated.

Mr Farmer said: "We are not clear how the frequent claims that the teachers' agreement justifies all manner of management restructuring can stand up.

"It is clear that service managers have an agenda for restructuring and that agenda has been around for a long time - 15 years or so. But we are quite bemused by the linkage between what is in the national teachers'

agreement and these proposed changes."

A survey carried out by TNS System 3 for the EIS, published in May, found that 54 per cent of its members believe school management has deteriorated, while 80 per cent said that restructuring had led to a decline in morale.

Platform 13; Leader 14; Scotland Plus 4

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