Now the teachers get to grade the professor

9th June 2000 at 01:00
Ochone, ochone, McCrone. You have looked after the young blades, who will climb five steps to heaven and may proceed to untold levels of enrichment if they take the bait of superteacher status. But what about the grey-tops, who inhabit schools in ever growing numbers? There is no remedy for the chronologically challenged in your package and this could be a drawback.

Many teachers have little stake in attractive starting salaries or even a shortened climb to maximum pay. They have already attained the dizzy heights of the pay scales and looked to you to facilitate the nirvana of an early bath.

Can anybody tell me what happened to the money that was offered last year and rejected overwhelmingly? As none of the present package is backdated to 1999, there must be a pot of gold that was not paid out. Mathematics was never a Sweeney strength, but is there not a sizeable cohort who would have done better under the millennium review proposals, given that they would have got hold of the cash two years earlier?

It took a distinguished academic to work out that teachers undertaking extra-curricular activities beyond school hours have to be paid. The Education Minister will understand that his medical colleagues who spend their evening hours toiling in the private sector are remunerated. The day of expecting physical education, music and other teachers to turn out through unalloyed dedication may be receding into memory.

The crafty professor has had the good sense to let planned activity time go in return for an increased working week. It was always an affront to the professionalism of teachers and was speedily eroded and traded off by authorities as a bargaining chip for the annual avoidance of conflict. The 50 hours became 30 hours; the definition of the 30 hours was woolly in certain areas and non-existent in others. Many teachers resented being kept in, when they already devoted many hours to the job beyond the confines of school. The McCrone proposal recognises that schools cannot run on class teaching alone and the whole-school elements have to be built in and paid for.

The grades of teachers now proposed may create tensions butthis demarcation is indisputably fair. If we eschew the English initiative of payment related to exam results, we should nevertheless acknowledge that not all teachers offer, or wish to provide, an equal level of service. The colleague who puts in more hours and undertakes additional responsibilities is entitled to be paid at a higher level than the teacher who draws the line at a perfunctory engagement with the work of the school.

A conundrum will arise when two maths teachers, one a plebeian and the other a pedagogical wonder, apply for the same post. Mr Slow will cost pound;24,000 a year, while Miss Zippy will command pound;36,000. Could some schools become unchartered waters for the wrong reasons?

The revised promotion structure could have been more radical. The retention of principal teachers' posts will obviate the chaos which would undoubtedly have accompanied their predicted demise. On the other hand, leaving every principal teacher in place may not constitute a visionary leap into the future. It should be possible to ensure that able teachers are no longer assigned to unassailable fortresses, where they remain closeted for decades.

Perhaps the new scenario will also create a more equitable division of labour across departments. The volume of teaching currently managed by principal teachers typically varies from 3 to 15 per cent of the total.

Headteachers are to be rescued from the joys of building maintenance and financial acrobatics by the appointment of bursars or facilities managers. I will pine for my meetings with property management staff, who would lay out frighteningly complex drawings in the belief that I could understand them.

One of McCrone's most welcome recommendations is the creation of properly paid and supported bursars. In Holy Rood, this represents a triumph for the "Pay June Falconer more" campaign. The burden imposed on school office staff in recent times has frequently been unrealistic .

McCrone has cast an objective eye over the pay and conditions of teachers. Now we will see if they consider him to be a fair-minded professor.

Pat Sweeney is headteacher at Holy Rood High, Edinburgh


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