McCrone is not the biggest bogeyman

10th December 2004 at 00:00
I read the lead story in The TES Scotland ("New start fails to inspire", November 26) with much interest as I couldn't help but be struck by the findings of Janet Draper, of Exeter University, and Stephen Sharp, of Edinburgh University. I, too, am part of the throng of experienced teachers yet to be fully convinced about the benefits of the post-McCrone agreement.

Take chartered teacher status. Apparently only a handful of teachers have signed up for it in my local area, or come to mention it, any area. The reasons behind this low take-up rate are straightforward.

Obviously, the cost is considerable but that's not the main reason. The real problem is that, in virtually all cases, the past experiences and qualifications of these classroom teachers are being discarded, causing humiliation and a diminution of self-worth.

Chartered teachers should surely be the people who have kept up with the development of their professional qualifications, who have processed new thinking on teaching and learning, incorporated these strategies into their classroom repertoire and have, for instance, through these vehicles improved exam results.

Such individuals can be found in many schools and headteachers should be given the authority to recognise and reward them. Why should these people have to rebrand themselves as if all their previous history counts for nothing. Restarting their teaching careers is what it boils down to. Seems crazy, does it not, this voyage of reinvention - especially when the chartered teacher courses have yet to be given the endorsement of operating for years.

Even more of a hornet's nest is the cumbersome continuing professional development. The way it's organised throughout Scotland is open to ridicule. There is zero uniformity. Teachers in some schools get away with blue murder in comparison to what happens in other schools. My school is managing CPD properly and accountably so it is galling to find other schools, some of which are in my local authority, adopting a rather laissez-faire attitude to say the least.

I account for all my CPD in close detail and it totals well beyond the notional 35 hours. Other schools allow staff to write down nebulous entities such as "reading" and "research" as part of CPD. Yet more schools pay only lip-service to the relevant paperwork and, to top it all, one education officer recently told me that small authorities do not have the manpower to monitor all of this activity.

Such diversity of application of CPD programmes simply throws the old switches of the past. Some teachers work hard, some do the bare minimum and it appears that they are getting away with it.

The 35-hour working week. That's a fine one. Again, most teachers tend to do what they did before McCrone. Some of them work diligently and others are never seen to take a single stitch of marking or preparation materials from school to home.

The world of teaching is blatantly ill-divided in terms of workload but that's not an issue that has arisen with McCrone. I remember from my own distant schooldays how impressed I was by the teachers who clearly were giving 100 per cent. But how vividly I also recall the German teacher who would scrawl a few page references on the blackboard and retire to the staffroom for an afternoon of chain-smoking.

Maybe we should also note that McCrone emerged to the light of day in the pre-inclusion era. Had we but known that the policy of inclusion would cause mega angst, we might well have wondered about selling our heritage for a mess of potage. Falling standards of indiscipline, too, threaten to crucify the profession in terms of both viable numbers of new entries and the mental health of existing teachers.

Suddenly McCrone seems tame. There are too many other things which might just chew us all up.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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