New start fails to inspire

26th November 2004 at 00:00
Experienced teachers have yet to be fully convinced about the benefits of the post-McCrone agreement, an in-depth but small-scale study suggests.

Chartered teacher status is particularly galling, with 60 per cent of staff who have been teaching for 15 years opposed to signing up to yet more professional development that eats into their savings and spare time.

The findings emerge two weeks after ministers trumpeted the arrival of the first batches of chartered teachers but left questions unanswered about why more teachers were not volunteering for higher pay while remaining as front-line classroom staff.

In a paper presented to the Scottish Educational Research Association conference in Perth yesterday (Thursday), Janet Draper of Exeter University and Stephen Sharp of Edinburgh University conclude that primary and secondary teachers "in the prime of their professional lives" are split over many of the key components of the post-McCrone deal, now into its fourth year.

They state: "There is evidence of enthusiastic teachers meeting new arrangements with energy and a belief that they will improve teaching and learning and of others who are tired and suspicious of initiatives and change."

The researchers are conducting a long-term study into a group of teachers who joined the profession in the late 1980s. In the most recent investigation, on the teachers' agreement, 128 took part. They are particularly critical of the chartered teacher programme which 60 per cent see as desirable, although an equal percentage have no intention of applying.

"It was clear that feelings on the issue were running high," Ms Draper says. Some were strongly in favour, seeing it as fairer way of rewarding good teaching than previous systems. But others were angrily dismissive.

One primary teacher complained: "I am three times qualified - drama, primary, guidance - and I will have to spend pound;600 before anyone can tell me that I am good enough to put my foot on the first rung of the ladder. What an insult!"

Critics said they had mortgages and families and had no spare cash to pay for the modules. The researchers comment: "Given that, for most, engagement with CPD was nothing new, the arrival of a CPD route requiring a large initial outlay, albeit with deferred significant and enduring returns, is not an unalloyed joy."

As for other parts of the agreement, teachers are divided on the benefits and losses. So far, most have yet to experience any reduction in administration and paperwork as extra support staff have still to be recruited.

Nearly a third of unpromoted teachers, three-quarters of middle managers and 90 per cent of senior managers said their jobs had been changed by McCrone. Those whose jobs had changed were less satisfied with workload.

Moving to a 35-hour formal working week had not affected most. As one teacher put it: "Changes in contractual hours, CPD arrangements, personal development have little relevance to a committed teacher."

Ninety per cent described themselves as effective or very effective teachers and expected to be in the classroom in five years' time. Nearly half had gained a further qualification, many paying their own way. Some disliked the form-filling for the CPD programme.

Professional autonomy had not been increased either, with some reporting more meetings after school. "Teachers found themselves in different positions in different schools as well as in different authorities," the researchers state.

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