Teachers "at the frontline in dealing with extreme behaviour and violence" in a Church of Scotland residential school say their pay has flatlined and their conditions of service are being eroded.
Ballikinrain School near Balfron, which caters for boys aged six to 16 with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, opened in 1968 and until recently paid teachers at the nationally agreed rate.
In 2010, however, without notice or discussion, CrossReach, the Church of Scotland's social care arm that runs the school, failed to implement the national 2.4 per cent pay rise for Scottish teachers. Pay was subsequently frozen in 2011 for all Scottish teachers but it remains unclear whether Ballikinrain staff will benefit from any pay increase agreed for 2013-14. A teacher at Ballikinrain on point six of the unpromoted pay scale currently earns pound;800 less a year than an equivalent local authority teacher.
The teachers say they have been let down by their union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, and claim it took over two years to seek legal advice. When advice was eventually provided, the Ballikinrain staff were told nothing could be done because they had not told CrossReach they were working under protest.
In a letter to CrossReach chief executive Peter Bailey, seen by TESS, the school's teaching staff express their growing concerns around pay and conditions.
They say: "We are at the frontline in dealing with extreme behaviour and violence but, despite this, we feel we are all helping to make a difference to some of the most `at risk' young boys in society in our care. It gives us great satisfaction to see pupils progress educationally and socially while with us at Ballikinrain.
"We cannot help but ask why there is not parity of pay between us and our peers in other schools? We believe that if CrossReach wish to employ GTCS- registered teachers then there is a general expectation that the organisation is prepared to pay the going rate."
No reply has been forthcoming from Mr Bailey and on the day the school broke up for the Christmas holiday, staff received a letter outlining changes to their terms and conditions.
These included the proposed introduction of three unpaid waiting days, should any employee have a second or subsequent absence in any rolling 12- month period before sick pay commences; and a reduction in generous maternity, paternity and adoption entitlements to bring them into line with minimum statutory requirements.
The charity also warned it was exploring the feasibility of all pension schemes, including the Scottish teachers' pension scheme.
An EIS spokesman said it was aware of the letter sent by CrossReach shortly before the Christmas break, which advised of the charity's desire to negotiate revised terms and conditions.
"While we will await formal discussions with the employer to raise specific issues, the EIS shares members' concerns over a number of proposals alluded to in this letter, particularly those referring to proposed detrimental changes to both pension entitlement and other conditions of service," he said.
The union said it would raise all these issues in formal negotiations and urged CrossReach to arrange a date for such a meeting as soon as possible.
A spokesperson for CrossReach said: "There have been no recent changes to the terms and conditions of teaching staff. Consultation meetings are due to take place later this month with the EIS, with whom we have a recognition agreement around terms and conditions and their submission for cost of living increases."
Ballikinrain School is run by the Church of Scotland's social care arm, CrossReach, for boys experiencing significant social, emotional and behavioural problems and featured in a BBC documentary series in 2007 and follow-up programme in 2012. The school is housed in the 19th-century Ballikinrain Castle, near Balfron. In 2009 the school roll was 35.
Photo: Staff at Ballikinrain School are fighting for better pay. Photo credit: David Gordon
Original headline: School staff `at the frontline' fight for pay rise