Flexible skills welcome

14th October 2005 at 01:00
What a revealing contrast in the responses of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland and the Headteachers' Association of Scotland to the news of the repeal of the 1956 Schools (Scotland) Code.

Where Gordon Smith of AHTS envisages the potential for an enrichment of professional skills, Bill McGregor of HAS raises the spectre of a "dilution of skills" and the scandalous prospect of a primary-trained person being pressed into service as emergency cover in S3 or S4. Presumably he couldn't bear even to contemplate such cover in S5.

If Bill's comments really do reflect the sentiments of HAS members, then the reservations expressed by Gordon Smith that primary-trained staff will be consigned to classes of pupils with learning difficulties may very well come to pass. And that would be a very great pity.

What is this "dilution of skills" which Bill conjures up? Is he really suggesting that secondary teachers operate at a more highly skilled level than their primary colleagues? Can he identify what skills secondary teachers have which are missing from the armoury of the primary teachers?

Bill McGregor is old enough to remember the articulate arguments advanced in the press by Harry Barter of the Honours Graduate Teachers' Association, lamenting the impending dilution of the profession by allowing mere ordinary graduates access to senior certificate classes and senior promoted posts in the secondary school. Did that change equate with dilution? (Bill needs to think carefully here - not a few serving heads and HAS members have built their careers on the foundation of an Ordinary MA or BSc.) The prospect of greater flexibility in school staffing is surely to be welcomed. Both primary and secondary schools are much more likely to gain than to lose by sharing expertise at all levels. Perhaps the next outdated practice which should be swept away by the Scottish Executive is that which allows the secondary sector to enjoy staffing and funding ratios so much more favourable than those which currently constrain the work of the primary school.

David Nicolson Bowfield Road West Kilbride

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