Higher status for the chosen few;Briefing;International

29th January 1999 at 00:00

Superteacher status, permission for staff to give private lessons on school premises, and a range of new posts of special responsibility are among the surprises on offer in the profession's new contract now being negotiated.

A draft version of the contract from Aran, the government negotiating agency, says any teacher with more than 10 years' service would be able to apply for superteacher status.

Unlike their British counterparts, they would have to sit an exam to "evaluate their professional activity". Passing would mean an as yet unquantified salary increase. But Aran says that superteachers could not exceed 5 per cent of the workforce.

Union reactions to the proposal have been sceptical, with the strong primary-school union, CISL Scuola, fearing that the move would introduce a caste system into schools.

The main surprise in the contract, however, is a clause allowing teachers to give private lessons on the premises after hours - the school day normally runs from 8 am to 1 pm. The only restrictions would be that private pupils should not come from the same school, and that the extra income should be declared.

The real reason behind the move seems to be an attempt to collect tax from the huge hidden industry of private lessons. This is estimated to generate 700 billion lire (pound;250 million) a year of business for teachers hard-pressed to make ends meet on an average salary of pound;720 month.

For Giorgio Rembado, president of the Italian Headteachers Association, the idea is a step in the right direction because "it treats teachers like other professionals" such as hospital doctors. As negotiations get under way, the real talking will be about cash. The unions calculate that Aran has underestimated by at least pound;110 million the resources needed to fund the innovations in the contract.

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