Minister backs agreement

26th January 2007 at 00:00
The Education Minister declares the teachers' agreement a success because it delivered peace to classrooms

Using educational attainment to measure the success of the teachers'

agreement would be irresponsible and wrong, Hugh Henry warned the Scottish Parliament's education committee this week.

The Education Minister joined a growing band of defenders of the agreement against opposition and media criticism that it has failed to raise pupil attainment.

In his evidence to the MSPs' inquiry into the post-McCrone era, Mr Henry referred to comments by Jack McConnell, education minister when the agreement was reached. "(He said) it was good for teachers and he said it was even better for pupils and parents - and I still think that is the case," said Mr Henry, adding that solving the industrial unrest, which took morale to rock bottom among teachers in the 1980s and 1990s, should be acknowledged as an achievement.

"This was a pay deal - it was never about raising educational attainement per se; but I think we helped to stop the threat that was there. People have seen the benefits of it in the past few years, and I'm confident in years to come it will enable us to build on what is regarded as a great education system."

However, he ruled out adopting educational attainment retrospectively as a measure of the agreement's success. "We were one of three parties to that agreement," he said.

"We cannot unilaterally go back and impose something that was not agreed to at the time. It would be irresponsible and wrong."

His comments came a week after the committee heard the senior chief inspector of education in Scotland, Graham Donaldson, concede the agreement has changed schools more for teachers than pupils. "Schools in Scot-land now are not the same as they were prior to the agreement," he told MSPs.

"If you asked whether schools are dramatically different places for children than they were prior to the agreement, then we would be less confident that isthe case."

He described the teachers' agreement as improving educational attainment by laying the ground for initiatives such as A Curriculum for Excellence, rather than improving children's results in themselves. "The agree-ment should play an important part in allowing it to happen but I don't think in itself it will lead to that. The real test of the agreement will be the extent to which it allows those sort of changes to bear on Scottish education," he said.

Charlie Gray, education convener of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, warned that Scotland's education would have suffered without the agreement. "It would have been a dreadful situation. The quality of Scottish education would have dropped to an all-time low, and we would have had great difficulties getting it back up again."

Teachers' unions and headteachers' assocations, giving evidence this week, agreed with Bruce Robertson, president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, that the agreement had improved recruitment under the new probationers' scheme.

However, both the Headteachers' Association of Scotland and the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland warned of a looming crisis in recruitment of heads because of heavy workload and a lack of incentives.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of AHDS, said there was little financial incentive for a depute to move up to a headship, and he warned it was unacceptable that heads were taking for granted they would have to cover classes to give teachers non-contact time.


Teachers are getting into debt in order to fund the chartered teacher programme, the Scottish Parliament's education committee heard this week.

Jane Peckham, organiser of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in Scotland, said: "We have been quite shocked at the lack of uptake - we have members who are only getting through it by using their credit card."

She said the scheme took too much time and cost too much, and called on MSPs to reduce both burdens. Her call was backed by David Eaglesham, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, who called for candidates to be given government funding for participation in the scheme.

He asked why the Scottish Qualification for Headship attracted funding while teachers had to pay for the chartered teacher status themselves. "It has been an opportunity missed and I don't think we can come back from that," he said.

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