More brass in pocket

16th February 2001 at 00:00
Why should overwhelming rejection of a pay and conditions package be turned into overwhelming acceptance (page 5) less than two years later by the same set of voters? The key is that the Executive bought compliance by injecting money into salaries. And the most repugnant aspects of the Millennium Review were ditched, notably abolition of principal teacher posts in secondary. The minority of teachers who rejected the present package described it as "son of the Millennium Review" but most saw it as an advance and the last opportunity to secure a negotiated deal that had within it benefits similar to previous post-inquiry settlements such as Houghton and Clegg.

Union leaders are right to warn that the opportunity must not be lost to bed down the agreement and make it the long-term basis for a happier and more prosperous profession. They are conscious that previous salary hikes were not safeguarded and staffroom morale soon drained away. The omensthis time are not necessarily set fair.

Local implementation forms part of the McCrone follow-up. Some local authority leaders, especially those used to dealing with other less favoured groups of employees, have little sympathy with teachers' claims to special treatment. They think that McCrone did not sufficiently tighten conditions. There is a danger of divide and rule council by council, or even school by school.

The new package will not work without extra teachers. Yet faculties of education look like suffering financially just when government should be ensuring that their intakes are buoyant. Otherwise schools will be unable to recruit enough young staff and the much-needed extension of professional development programmes will be untenable. The Executive says it cannot interfere with decisions by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council. It can, however, point to ill-timed folly and the need for joined-up government.

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