David Henderson reports from the HAS's annual conference in Crieff
THERE is no inherent reason teachers should not work to more flexible patterns, the Headteachers' Association of Scotland was told by its president at its annual conference in Crieff last weekend.
Donald Matheson, head of Hermitage Academy, Helensburgh, called for year-round education which would sever the link between the hours teachers were contracted to work and school opening times.
The traditional school year had remained the same for more than 100 years, Mr Matheson said. "I believe many teachers would welcome greater flexibility in working patterns and there could be significant gains in the ability of schools to deploy specialist expertise and enhance the professional skills of staff, which I maintain is the key to improving our schools."
Mr Matheson later said schools could not have more time to focus on professional development and social inclusion without working more flexibly. "Our view is that teachers and heads cannot have it both ways," he said.
The HAS continues to demand more control over non-contact hours to fulfil whole-school agendas. "The balance is crucial," Mr Matheson said. "Demands on schools change, demands on staff change. Therefore staff must be more responsive and sensitive than they have been in the past."
Nigel Lawrie, outgoing president and head of Port Glasgow High, said teachers should not always be taken out of the classroom for professional development. "We have to look again at the degree of overlap between the pupil year and the teacher year."
The HAS remains upset at its exclusion from the failed Millennium Review talks and believes its advice on secondary reorganisation should have been heeded. It favoured retaining a post similar to that of principal teacher.
Dr Lawrie re-emphasised that expansion of management posts in primary should not be at the expense of secondary and called for strong senior and middle management in secondaries.
He welcomed the abolition of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee. "I do not believe it had the capability of delivering any substantial package of change to conditions of service or career structure," he said. The association favours an independent pay review body.
Mr Matheson said the pay gap for heads between England and Scotland was due to the failure of the SJNC to set realistic salaries and recognise increased demands. The average Scottish head earns pound;43,000, against pound;48,000 south of the border.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association - the HAS's sister organisation in England - warned the gap would widen when pay reforms were introduced next year south of the border, perhaps a year ahead of Scottish reforms.
Good teachers leading big departments would be able to earn pound;36,000 with a knock-on effect on heads' salaries.
Mr Matheson said significant problems in recruiting and retaining heads would diminish if new structures were in place. Some schools were also finding it difficult to recruit principal teachers, the group from which future secondary heads would come.
More controversially, he said: "We need to reward staff who are willing to do more and that is a debate that needs to be heard in the wider population of teachers. It would be recognition for tasks undertaken.
"If you are talking about extended professional contracts, it does imply an extended professional salary level related to task-related activities.
"This is in line with what is happening outside teaching."