McCormac stands by his decisions

7th June 2013 at 01:00
Author of polemical report also admits he is not surprised by negative reactions

The controversial McCormac report on teachers' terms and conditions has been on the receiving end of repeated accusations that it is an attack on the profession. But its author - in his first interview since its publication in September 2011 - insists that he would not change anything about it.

Professor Gerry McCormac, who is principal at the University of Stirling, was accused of wanting to sideline teachers when he suggested that non- qualified experts in subjects including foreign languages or engineering could be used by schools to teach students.

He told TESS that he was not surprised by the negative reaction but maintained that his team had always "stuck to the principle of wanting to improve the lot of children".

"We thought, and I am still very strongly of the view, that the contact time teachers in Scotland have - fourth-highest in the (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries when we did the report - is very high," he said.

"Putting teachers in class for longer periods of time certainly would not be a recommendation either then or now that I would make.

"There's a view that what we were suggesting was that non-teachers could come in and be used to replace teachers in the classroom.

"It was not about replacing teachers, but giving some formality to existing good practice whereby specialists in their field can come in and help educate children."

It made "perfect sense" for a languages expert or an oil and gas engineer to come into classrooms, on terms agreed by the teacher and headteacher, he said.

"What better to enhance classroom practice than having those sorts of people work alongside children?"

His study, commissioned by the Scottish government, sought to build on the Donaldson and Cameron reports - on teacher education and devolved school management - "in terms of providing more autonomy to individual schools and trying to improve the educational lot of children and young people", Professor McCormac added.

Isabelle Boyd, a member of Professor McCormac's team who, as headteacher at North Lanarkshire's Cardinal Newman High, represented schools, said: "I can understand `whatever happened to McCormac' comments, as it all seems a bit quiet. However, work has been ongoing."

She said that decisions around many recommendations were still being discussed by professional associations, the local authorities body Cosla and the Scottish government.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Of all the recent reports in education, the McCormac report is the one which received near unanimous condemnation by the teaching profession as it was seen as little more than a budget-driven attack on teachers and their conditions of service, which we continue to work to fight off.

"In particular, it served as a catalyst for the demise of the internationally acclaimed chartered teacher programme, an action that the EIS believes was wrong and which we remain deeply opposed to."

But Professor McCormac had also agreed that the existing collective bargaining arrangements in Scotland were fit for purpose, which the EIS welcomed.

School Leaders Scotland general secretary Ken Cunningham said that whatever the disagreements over its detail, McCormac had "raised the discussion around teacher professionalism at a critical time in Scottish education".

He added: "For McCormac to really be effective, we will still need to work hard at developing trust throughout the system so that the vision of `collaboration, consultation and collegiality' at all levels becomes a reality."

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

Photo credit: University of Stirling

Original headline: McCormac says he would not change a thing

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