McCormac's contradictions

23rd September 2011 at 01:00

Advancing Professionalism in Teaching, the title of the McCormac report, is a misnomer (TESS, 16 September). The challenge facing the McCormac review was to "consider the ways in which teachers' terms and conditions of employment can best support and sustain Scotland's ambitious education agenda for successive generations of young people". It is unclear how many of the recommendations would enhance teacher professionalism or produce improved outcomes for our young people.

The report was not as radical as expected and avoided some of the more extreme elements of Cosla's controversial submission. There are admirable proposals on professional review and personal development and continuing professional development for both teachers and support staff. Classroom assistants - the "valuable assets", as they are described - deserve greater recognition.

However, some of its recommendations - those that prescribe how teachers should carry out their non-contact duties, in particular - erode, rather than advance, the professionalism of teachers. Removing autonomy from professionals is a contradiction in terms.

A further contradiction is the recommendation on the deployment of "external experts". How can unqualified staff being allowed to look after children without supervision be reconciled with improving teaching and learning? They may be experts in their own field, but they are not teachers.

Although it has not been the success that was hoped for, chartered teacher status has been of value and it should be reviewed rather than discontinued. It is important that there should be alternative career paths for those teachers who want to remain and develop and be rewarded as excellent teachers, but who do not want to move into senior management and away from actual teaching.

The recommended removal of the "list of tasks (that) should not routinely be carried out by teachers" would both undermine teachers' professionalism and increase their workload, as well as threaten the roles of those support staff who currently undertake them. It is difficult to see how this would benefit anyone except, perhaps, the employers who will see it as a cost-saving exercise.

Maureen Laing, senior professional officer (Scotland), Voice: the union for education professionals, Edinburgh.

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