Job sizing is the talk of the staffroom, with many people worried about their positions and status. But when the number-crunching ends, what is the exercise going to mean for schools and their staff, and how do they feel? Raymond Ross reports
AS if teachers and school staff didn't have enough to worry about, now they are having to contend with the idea that their job titles and responsibilities - not to mention pay - will be changing as the next stage of the national teachers' agreement is implemented.
A huge job-sizing exercise is now being carried out. Principal teachers and senior managers have had to fill in questionnaires about their jobs. These have been returned by schools and will be submitted by today to financial consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers, who will create a toolkit to help authorities calculate how much each job is worth.
Local authorities insist the jobsizing exercise is running smoothly and to time. But there seems to be some anxiety and confusion among those being "job sized".
Teachers' representatives and individuals have expressed concerns about the relevance and accuracy of the questionnaire forms, the weighting mechanisms being used, the possibility of finances being tied to existing budgets and how local authorities will differ in the way they size comparable posts.
Dan Brown, of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, says: "The Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers' working party is reasonably happy that the PricewaterhouseCoopers toolkit is nearly ready to sign off.
The questionnaires should go to PWC by today at the latest and the toolkit should go to the full negotiating SNCT body on February 26.
"Once agreed, it goes out to local authorities and then they start the whole process of going through schools."
Those affected - headteachers, depute heads and principal teachers - should know their position early in the summer term as the effects of job sizing will come into effect on August 1.
On the same date, the posts of assistant head, assistant principal teacher and senior teacher will disappear. Assistant heads will become deputes; and assistant principal teachers and senior teachers will be assimilated on a common point on the new chartered teacherprincipal teacher pay scales.
How the responsibilities of the disappearing posts will be devolved remains unclear. Strictly speaking, job sizing has nothing to do with this flattening of management structures, but in practice it is difficult to separate the two.
Principal teachers may have to work at a higher level, taking on some of the responsibilities of former assistant heads and assistant principal teachers.
Barbara Clark, of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, says: "If principal teachers have to take on other responsibilities, will they need to be re-job-sized again next session?
"The SNCT working party needs to produce guidelines because posts will and do grow and develop."
Ken Cunningham, ex-president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, representing secondary heads, says: "We may have to job size any new posts in August or people whose responsibilities have been shuffled around."
This will be difficult, he says, because schools will not be given the weighting mechanism, only the overall weighting attached to each post.
Regarding secondary heads, Mr Cunningham says: "Different local authorities are interpreting the amount of money differently. So it could happen that in schools of a comparable size nationally, the heads could be earning different salaries.
"When it comes to the management of finances, for example, under devolved school management (DSM) in Glasgow, heads are responsible for 82 per cent of the budget - at least in theory, because we are told that in terms of job sizing we are not responsible for 82 per cent."
Ian Marchant, national agreement co-ordinator for Edinburgh, paints a similar picture.
"Under DSM, repairs and maintenance are the responsibility of the head, but, under the national agreement drawn up by the Scottish Executive, the local authorities and the unions, these responsibilities have been taken out of job sizing across Scotland.
"So Edinburgh heads will remain responsible for these budgets but that responsibility will not be taken into account."
The Association of Head Teachers in Scotland (AHTS), which represents primary heads, says the weightings "are based upon the current disparity between the primary and secondary sectors"; that "the toolkit does not take permanent staff costs into account" and is "an unfair reflection of the true situation where a head is still responsible for the total budget, regardless of its sub-categories."
In a written submission to the SNCT, the AHTS criticises the toolkit for giving non-teaching staff lesser weighting, and for not recognising that smaller management teams in primaries means more demands on primary heads.
These include responsibility for all aspects of the curriculum and for school development planning, as well as personally covering classes due to absence. Nor does the toolkit take into account evening work with school boards and parent-teacher associations.
The AHTS also expresses its concern that "the phrase 'within existing resources' is often quoted" and that "yet again, the primary sector may lose out in terms of parity".
Whether there will be enough extra funding to offset a general down-sizing of posts remains as yet unclear.
Dan Brown of Cosla says: "The impact of job sizing on education budgets will be on-going. We should be paying people for the job they are doing.
"Job sizing will prevent the kind of situation like the South Ayrshire case (where a female primary head is claiming parity with the male head of Mallaig High). It will protect against equal pay claims but will provide fair pay."
Pay differentials are most likely to be widespread among principal teachers.
Mr Brown says: "Sizing will almost certainly mean that principal teachers of core subjects will be sized at a higher level."
West Lothian's McCrone implementation officer, Mary Rankine, says that anxiety about down-sizing should be offset by the three-year conservation of salaries guaranteed to those in post before April 2001. By then most salaries will probably have caught up anyway with cost of living increases.
The same would apply to principal teachers in smaller departments with salaries down-sized.
Newer principal teachers may be the ones to suffer. Ken Cunningham believes a lot of principal teachers will be down-sized, especially if the process is tailored to existing budgets.
Many teachers have found the questionnaires confusing. As Mr Cunningham says: "There has been total bamboozlement in filling out the forms. It is a cold, clinical exercise which people find difficult to come to terms with."
VIEWS FROM THE FRONTLINE
A BLUNT INSTRUMENT
Primary head: "My main complaint about the questionnaire is that it is a blunt instrument which does not reflect the situation in our school.
"There are very limited sections for headteachers to fill in; only two or three that are relevant - like your name and the address of your school.
"The other sections were put in by local authorities - the size of your school etc. That means there is no opportunity to put down any special circumstances. The main thing about my school is its transient population but there was no place to say that, so it is not taken into account.
"Other heads have said the same about public private partnership status, budgets and caretaking. There are a lot of management issues not being reflected, enough to get people concerned."
Principal teacher, music: "The bandings in the questionnaire to do with departmental budgets, the pupils you are responsible for etc, are so broad I don't think much will change. It will be status quo.
"In terms of music vis-...-vis the core subjects, I think it'll prove favourable because we have a big uptake in music here.
"One odd thing is that our visiting instructors are counted as auxiliaries, not teachers. I can see from the financial point of view why they are doing this but it is hardly fair."
WE'RE MOSTLY CONFUSED
Assistant head: "Although my post disappears theoretically in August, I'll continue as depute headteacher in charge of pupil support. For the time being we will have the same number, five, in the senior management team but this will be reduced to three when people move on.
"There is a flattening of senior management structures and I don't think you can separate that from the job-sizing exercise. But while there will be smaller senior management teams in schools, there will be larger middle management. Principal teachers will operate at a higher level, taking on some of the former assistant heads' duties.
"The real concerns are with assistant principal teachers, who are not being job sized because their posts disappear in August. Will they go to principal teacher or chartered teacher status?
"People generally thought they were filling in the form for a position and not for themselves. We're all mostly confused at the moment."
A COSMETIC EXERCISE
Secondary head: "The staff here have been very lukewarm about it. As most are conserved, it won't make much difference to them. Their concerns are for their successors who may get a lesser deal.
"The questionnaire was very mechanistic. One widespread concern was that it was the job that was being sized, not the person. No two posts are directly comparable.
"It's been a cosmetic exercise at best. No one here is waiting with baited breath."
NO CREDIT FOR EXTRA WORK
Secondary head: "Most staff felt the questionnaires did not do justice to their jobs or take into account work concerning support for pupils, raising attainment, social inclusion etc.
"They felt they were not being given credit for the extra work they do and this was not good for morale. It's an important flaw, as these relate to government and local authority strategies aimed at the five national priorities. In that sense, it isn't really proper job sizing at all.
"People are uneasy about how they will be weighted and the secrecy around how the weighting is being done upsets them."
NO INSIGHT INTO THE JOB
Principal teacher, modern languages: "The questionnaire was obviously written by someone with no clue as to what is involved in the jobs we do.
"In my case it didn't take into account the bi-level and tri-level classes which mix S5 and S6 in Higher and Intermediate 1 and 2, nor the extra work involved in presenting pupils for exams in two languages, plus external candidates, plus the different types of exam - spoken as well as written.
"In the weighting, the number of pupils in your department counts but not the number of subjects you are presenting.
"The form was badly designed and unclear. It was difficult, for example, to fit language assistants in. If they can't get the form right, do you think they really appreciate what goes on in schools?"
Primary head: "There was not a lot of information given in the build-up to this and there has been very little consultation. Many primary heads feel in the dark and no one is sure where the exercise is leading us. Both my depute head and principal teacher share this pessimism.
"The lack of consultation just doesn't feel right. It is unusual for something to be so badly done in education. With most initiatives there's usually plenty of information, consultation etc.
"I'm not confident regarding either the timescale or the end result. When you consider PWC is getting pound;500,000 for this, it is shocking what they have produced."