Leaders propose raft of staffing changes

6th May 2011 at 01:00
The latest submissions to the McCormac review appeal for clarity over teacher numbers, clearly defined duties for staff and an end to the 35 hours of CPD rule

The solution to declining teacher numbers is to create a national minimum staffing standard, determined centrally, the EIS teacher union has told the McCormac review of teacher employment.

"It is not a sustainable proposition that there should be 32 staffing standards operating in a country the size of Scotland," it says.

Its submission to the committee puts most of the blame for the fall in teacher numbers since 2007 on the concordat agreed by the Scottish Government and Cosla, the local authority umbrella group. That allowed councils to cut staffing standards directly, as well as indirectly, by reducing management time or the number of promoted posts, it says.

"Even when some councils made limited progress on reducing class sizes in the early stages of primary school, those councils tended to increase class sizes in the upper school or managed teacher numbers by creating more composite classes," it states.

"Workforce planning simply could not cope with planning teacher numbers in the absence of certainty on the numbers of teachers required. This is a political failure."

Unlike the headteacher associations, the EIS is fierce in its defence of Annex B in the original teachers' agreement, which set out teachers' duties.

"If Curriculum for Excellence is, as we understand, building upon the current professionalism of teachers, the delivery of CfE will be enhanced and protected by the maintenance of a clearly defined set of duties," it argues.

"Clear delineation of duties creates clarity for teachers on the role they provide. Any attempt to generalise on teachers' duties, which dilutes what is laid out in the SNCT Handbook, will only serve to confuse both managers and teachers."

The union also defends the chartered teacher scheme, warning that if the grade disappears, there will be diminished routes for career progression.

And it warns that "treating supply teachers differently in relation to pay and hours of work will be potentially damaging to the delivery of education".

A "two-tier" teaching force will "diminish professionalism and threaten high-level service delivery in each classroom on each day when pupils attend", it adds - despite having recommended its members to accept the revised offer from Cosla and the Government, which cut supply teacher rates for the first five days of employment.

Heads query non-contact time

Primary headteachers are calling for a move away from the current requirement on teachers to do 35 hours of continuing professional development a year.

Instead, CPD should be linked to the professional review and development process, with a clear connection to its impact on pupils' progress, argues the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland in its submission to the McCormac review.

"The danger of specifying 35 hours is that, in common with other elements of the agreement, it pushes a `clock-watching' mentality. The key point is that you cannot measure professional development on time alone," it says.

AHDS wants to see significant changes to the current career structure, pointing out that "those who have become chartered are paid more than most principal teachers in primary schools".

Ideally, it would like to insist that no depute head ever earn more than a head, but this has proved impossible to deliver across both primary and secondary schools in practical terms.

Like the secondary organisation, School Leaders Scotland, AHDS wants to see the removal of teachers' right to spend non class-contact time at a time and place of their choosing; it also wants reduced class contact time to be quality assured to demonstrate its impact.

It believes the job-sizing toolkit, which determined current pay scales, should be simplified and based on only three factors: role (head, depute and principal teacher); school roll; and staffing levels. School roll should be given greater weighting, accounting for 80 per cent of the outcome, it adds.

GTCS calls for `learning culture'

The General Teaching Council for Scotland fears the McCormac committee will face "compelling and perhaps disproportionate pressure" to reduce resources to allow employers to meet budgetary constraints.

It recommends that professional support for teachers be seen as a priority, commenting that to date there has been "insufficient evidence of consistency, continuity and coherence" in teachers' continuing professional development across Scotland.

Its answer is to develop more of a culture of learning - to be addressed in part by GTCS through its review of the suite of standards which govern the profession and its plans for reaccreditation or "professional update".

It warns that the current proposal before the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers to reduce probationers' dedicated professional development time to four hours a week is "a significant backward step" which jeopardises the quality and integrity of the scheme.

The chartered teacher programme, meanwhile, is "much misunderstood and occasionally unfairly criticised", it says; changes introduced through the revised standard for CT have not yet been fully understood and implemented and should overcome concerns about the quality of a small minority of early CTs.

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