Keep council hands off our wage packets

13th February 2009 at 00:00

It is bizarre that Reform Scotland is suggesting that authorities be handed control of teachers' pay and conditions (TESS, January 30). If there is one undisputed area left in the education arena, it's that there is less and less money for schools. Given that our cupboards have never been so bare, contemplate what might happen if the local authorities were to get their sticky paws on our salaries.

The evidence of our impoverishment engulfs us like a blizzard. Per capita allowances to schools have failed to keep pace with inflation. You have to question whether money is being spent wisely when textbooks are being sacrificed for interactive whiteboards. I stick to the old-fashioned view that reading is essential. I realise that literacy, or lack of it, is an increasing problem, but surely any pupil hoping to go on to higher education should have access to appropriate textbooks at school. I can't imagine that universities will abandon their booklists to accommodate pupils who have not experienced academic texts because they come from bereft school departments.

How many teaching colleagues do you know who, driven to frustration by chronic and relentless under-funding, buy materials and equipment for school out of their own money? Is this fair? Do surgeons buy scalpels out of their salaries? I can just imagine the column inches of unprintable bile that would ensue if they had to do so.

Education chiefs seem immune to arguments for increased finance. You'd think you were asking for donations to swan off on a jolly. The brains of our lords and masters should be rebooted so they might understand that there is close correlation between gross under-funding and gross underachievement.

So, contemplate in the light of all this the world of Reform Scotland in which the authorities divvy up the salaries and decide on our conditions. The very thought makes my fingers twitch, especially when you consider how the teaching unions are emasculations of their former glory and wouldn't be able to muster a serious challenge.

Anyone who criticised their authority would be dropped a scale or two, with accompanying gibberish to justify it. Troublesome people who put the case for more per capita because they have the best interests of the pupils at heart would be job-sized down to teach them a lesson, but some shadowy nonsense would be trotted out.

Already, our hands and feet are tied because we are not allowed to whistleblow. We must not criticise our councils in public. Why not? Isn't that how we initiate change by open governance and debate? We have none of that in education. Taxpayers who fund the system have no idea how poor and run-down it has become, because teachers are expected to bite their tongues and continue to provide a high-quality service in the face of ongoing, humiliating diminution of per capita.

Look at school buildings. How many in Scotland should be condemned? At least there should be honesty about these realities. Our energy for protest is almost neutered out of existence, but someone needs to up the ante and expose the truth.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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