Laughing all the way to the loch bank
In the midst of the biggest teacher-recruitment crisis for a decade, most teachers in England and Wales are expected to get a pay rise of only 3.7 per cent. Their Scottish counterparts, by contrast, can look forward to a rise of 10 per cent this year and a total increase of 23 per cent by 2004.
The deal is part of an overall settlement which, if approved by members of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the largest teaching union, will end 10 years of conflict between unions and employers.
Last year's McCrone report set the foundations of the settlement - which covers working practices and professional development as well as pay - but months of hard bargaining between the unions, local authorities and the Scottish Executive were necessary before a final deal could be reached.
Scottish ministers hope that the deal will help recruit 4,000 new teachers - as well as delivering harmony in the classroom and a much-needed boost for the Scottish Executive following last summer's exam-board fiasco.
However, not everyone is happy. Education ministers must feel uncomfortable about the scale of the Scottish pay increase.
Union leaders south of the border were quick to point out the problems if their members get a substantially lower rise. Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, warned: "If Mr Blunkett is not careful, he may find that Scotland recruits all its 4,000 extra teachers from England and Wales. The Government shouldn't treat teachers in various parts of the country so differently."
Is a stampede of teachers over the border likely? English and Welsh teachers currently get paid more than their Scottish counterparts. Newly-qualified teachers with an honours degree in Scotland currently get pound;14,000 compared to pound;16,000. But by 2004, when the Scottish pay deal is fully implemented, teachers north of the border will start on pound;18,000. Unless English newly-qualified teachers receive a similar rise, young people may be tempted to start their career in Edinburgh or Glasgow rather than London or Manchester. The cost of living in the south of England, in particular, could tempt them north.
With teachers at the top of the main scale in Scotland set to see their salaries rise to almost pound;29,000 by 2003, teachers in England will need an increase of around 20 per cent over the same period to keep pace.
However, Eoghan Mhor, Scottish secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, believes schools in England have nothing to worry about. "Scottish main-grade teachers at the top of the scale earn approximately pound;2,700 less than English teachers. After our huge pay rise of 10 per cent we wil still be earning less than our English counterparts," he said.
"Scottish teachers will only catch up in 2003. This, of course, assumes that inflation and English pay awards do not go up beyond the predictions."
He believes Scottish teachers may be tempted south to work in English schools. So far, Scotland has avoided the teacher shortages affecting schools in England, but the profession is ageing and some rural areas have had problems attracting staff.
One such area is the Scottish Borders. "We have had some difficulties in recruitment in the past year or two - more for supply and temporary staff than permanent, although jobs are attracting fewer applicants," said David Mallen, Scottish Borders' assistant director of education.
If the Scottish deal goes through, by 2006 teachers will have benefits which make them the envy of colleagues in England and Wales.
Scotland is the only part of the UK to get a big rise without performance-related pay. Instead, a new chartered teacher grade will allow those who decide to stay in the classroom to earn up to pound;6,000 extra.
Scottish teachers currently work a 40-hour week on average. In future they will be only be contractually obliged to work 35 hours and there will be no equivalent of the English clause requiring them to work extra hours "as necessary".
An extra 3,500 support staff will also be recruited and every teacher will be guaranteed a programme of continuous professional development. And the recruitment of an additional 4,000 teachers will cut the amount of time primary staff are expected to spend in front of class to 22.5 hours a week from 25.
In return, the unions will give up statutory national pay bargaining and their members will be expected to work more flexibly and put in an extra 35 hours a year to make time for professional development.
The deal is built on a recognition by all sides that something needs to be done to tackle low morale in the classroom. In a recent interview (TES Scotland, January 19) education minister Jack McConnell described teachers as "one of the most demoralised groups of public-sector workers in the country".
If teachers in England do decide to head north, pressure will intensify on his English counterparts to emulate the Scots' generosity.
WHAT SCOTS WILL GET
A pay rise of 10 per cent in April 2001 rising to 23 per cent by 2003.
* New chartered teacher grade to allow classroom teachers to earn up to pound;6,000 more.
* A total of 4,000 extra teachers and 3,500 support staff by 2004.
* New framework of continuing professional development to be in place by 2003.
* Weekly contact time reduced to 22.5 hours for primary teachers.
* Reform of traditional career structure and abolition of some senior teacher posts.
* Trade unions to give up rights to statutory pay bargaining.