McCormac review will conjure up change

22nd April 2011 at 01:00

There is a steady surge building up in education, it seems, and it's a surge for change. Whichever party wins the election in two weeks, it will carry on because it's deeper than party politics and it's longer- lasting than the recession. This week's submission by the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland to Gerry McCormac's review of teacher employment seems to encapsulate it.

One of the points ADES makes is how young people's lifestyles and learning styles have changed since a decade ago, when Gavin McCrone was putting together the review that led to the national teachers' agreement. We can see it in our News Focus this week (p10), where the new global digital industries are crying out for creative hi-tech skills and pupils are entering virtual learning environments and creating their own computer games.

We can see it, too, in our feature on volunteering (p16), where young people in North Lanarkshire have won some of the top YouthLink Scotland awards for helping their community and peer mentoring in their schools. Whether it's working in a children's hospital or running a lunchtime club, these youngsters are enterprising and outward-looking. Their education is not just within the confines of the school but beyond, and much of that is down to their teachers setting up partnerships with outside organisations.

Teachers are now required to be "dynamic, entrepreneurial and flexible", as ADES puts it, and it's clear from stories we run week after week, that many already are. It's not just down to Curriculum for Excellence, because it happened before that with initiatives like Young Enterprise and awards such as the Duke of Edinburgh's. But it seems that all these developments are coming together in a confluence of creativity which is transforming children's education.

It is just this type of teacher that ADES seems to advocate when it talks of "a leader of learning in a number of contexts within and beyond the classroom", a concept that has been gathering momentum in recent years. It's similar thinking to that which proposes headteachers should be deployed flexibly on rolling contracts instead of staying in a single school. Both address the need for creative approaches and could offer valuable career opportunities. But they could prove to be a step too far.

The McCrone review brought a decade of peace to the teaching profession. It succeeded in keeping teachers on board through difficult times. But already teachers are growing nervous that McCormac is part of a bigger attack on their pay and conditions (p28). References by ADES to "1970s approaches to teacher employment" or the "scrapping" of the chartered status for which individuals paid dear and worked hard will not reassure them. It is vital that the thinking and the language of the McCormac review shows respect for the teachers whose careers are at stake.

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