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25th August 2000 at 01:00
Don't be fooled by the McCrone report's Sellafield ploy of changing the name but continuing as before, says IN the ballyhoo of the launch the McCrone report and subsequent headlines there has been some misunderstanding of what it said. It did not find that teachers are currently underpaid. Paragraph 5.13 states: "The evidence does not show that there has been a clear and sustained decline in teachers' salaries in relation to all the other comparable groups."

On workload the report is equally clear: "Teachers are not alone in working well beyond their natural 35-hour week . . . their position is by no means out of the ordinary compared with other professionals." As with the pay comparisons, statistics are cited and a graph is drawn (with incorrect ordinates).

So the two main complaints of the profession are dismissed as groundless. However, the report went on to make a number of recommendations, which included increasing salaries. Why? Not because the committee was "independent" and thought teachers deserved more money. This was a hand-picked group of people.

Since we are not underpaid or overworked, the only reason for extra pay is to buy out our current conditions of service. The report indirectly admits this when it says about non-cash benefits enjoyed by other occupations: "Their value on average was taken as offsetting the much longer holidays available to teachers."

McCrone gives the appearance of producing original recommendations whereas they are merely new handles on which an old rejected agenda has been hung. The proposals in 1992 by a former employers' leader, Elizabeth Maginnis, and the more recent proposals from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities had the same themes. The McCrone report is just a repackaging of the Cosla offer last August that was overwhelmingly rejected by teachers. In other words, McCrone is a Sellafield ploy: change the name but continue as before.

Cosla wanted professional activity time every day (although it was careful not to call it that) and a week off teachers' holidays for social inclusion duties. The McCrone report wants the same extension to PAT and a week off our holidays for continuing professional development. CPD is the McCrone Sellafield name for in-service days. Para 3.12 says that the committee found "widespread criticism of the CPD on offer . . . Courses offer little value."

Apparently the people who are incapable of leading the current in-service courses will be transformed by accreditation and they will be the boys and girls to imbue us with enthusiasm for topics such as "mobile phone withdrawal syndrome in teenagers".

The report wants to double the number of CPD days. CPD is a god thing and therefore more CPD is an even better thing and, by the way, teachers will lose five days of their holidays.

Collegiality is the report's Big Idea. It came from nowhere to be the underpinning concept which will solve all problems short of Third World debt. It is not defined. But it had been christened and described in the rejected Cosla document as comprising general activities such as parents' meetings and a prescriptive set of grade-related duties.

Much has been made of the "victory" in retaining principal teacher as a grade in secondary schools. However, para 4.10 makes it clear that, while the job title remains, the new PT post is very close to Cosla's rejected model of professional leader. The Cosla paper gave the game away when it said: "The concept of professional leadership is closely linked to that of collegiality."

While volume 2 of McCrone looked at pay in other countries it made no attempt to look at conditions of service. Table 2 of appendix B and the text do not agree. UK teachers have a short payscale in comparison with other countries. Is this the unacknowledged reason for the chartered teacher grade? Are the envisaged hurdles a feature in other countries?

The small print has a number of caveats such as "choice (of comparator) occupations has been largely driven by data considerations". Three of the groups are:

Police - but only ranks up to sergeant are included. Their wages have grown faster than teachers', but it is not unreasonable to assume that had the upper ranks been included the rises would have been even more pronounced. Those higher up the food chain usually exhibit a high degree of self-interest. Witness the current squabbling between primary and secondary heidies over the division of the McCrone spoils.

Doctors - but not GPs because they are self-employed. Yet they are a very large, highly paid element.

Solicitors - the self-employed are excluded. As with doctors this casts doubt on any comparison.

Ignored in the recommendations was the finding that "most other countries have larger differentials between secondary and primary teachers" and "salary per teaching hour in UK primary schools . . . was considerably above the international average", whereas it is not true for secondary schools.

Much is made of the finding that headteachers are underpaid relative to the market. The finding that they are overpaid relative to the public sector is completely ignored. (The two teacher representatives on the McCrone committee were both headteachers.)

Teachers rejected the Cosla proposals. This Sellafield version is no less dangerous.

Brian Magill is an assistant principal teacher.

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