It's time to settle;Leading Article

27th August 1999 at 01:00
HOPES THAT a pay and conditions deal was being sorted out over the summer have proved premature. We are now at the stage of threat and counter-threat. It would be better if the unions and management were seen to be addressing points of difference rather than striking a pose that makes an eventual deal harder to secure and then sell to teachers.

The first test will be in a ballot of union members. Last week's offer was dismissed so precipitately that many teachers will regard it with greater distaste than careful study of its contents might warrant. The pay aspect is not wonderful but it would put money in everyone's pocket, with a significant rise for some. Whatever the management's flexibility on the accompanying conditions, there is no way a straight, over-the-odds award is going to be made. Teachers will not be able to have their cake and eat it.

That is not to say that the proposed changes to conditions, even as amended over the summer, are acceptable in present form. No increase in hours is demanded, as the arithmetic proves. So that should go down on the positive side of any equation. But implementing the professional leadership pay scale remains problematic. More work needs to be done before principal teachers will be convinced that the role of subject departments - essential to Higher Still, for example - can be maintained.

If a deal stalls, the Education Minister threatens abolition of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee. That will not dismay or excite most people. But letting continuing disagreements slide into sanctions would be damaging, not least to pupils, whose parents are unlikely to sympathise with a profession impervious to change.

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