The pluses and minuses of the new career structure

12th May 2006 at 01:00
This week's long-awaited report from Audit Scotland on the teachers' agreement delivers a mixed verdict. Neil Munro summarises the findings and garners reaction.

Key findings

Local authorities have spent an estimated pound;2.15 billion implementing the agreement. This is pound;34.8 million (-1.6 per cent) less than the amount the Scottish Executive estimated.

Implementation of the agreement was to be a phased process between 2001 and 2006, underpinned by more than pound;2 billion of additional investment in education services. This additional investment was linked to a series of milestones to provide a timetable and a framework for implementing the changes. It has been utilised as follows: * pound;1.64 billion spent on the teachers' pay award between 2001-2006.

This included a 23 per cent pay increase over the first three years which was made to approximately 54,000 teachers and other education professionals.

* At July 2005, 3,125 full-time equivalent (FTE) new administrative and support staff had been recruited to give teachers more time to teach, against a target of 3,500 FTEs. Coupled with the increased salaries of existing support staff who have been regraded, this has cost pound;168.1 million.

* pound;57 million on continuing professional development.

* pound;4.1 million for teachers who have successfully completed the chartered teacher programme, which carries a pay increase of pound;6,492 in addition to the annual pay awards.

* pound;63.6 million on a new career structure.

* pound;38 million on pay conservation.

* pound;96.7 million on the teacher induction scheme for newly qualified teachers.

* At July 2005, an additional 1,573 FTE teachers had been recruited to reduce class contact time at a cost of pound;60.6 million. Up to April this year, local authorities plan to recruit an additional 65 FTE teachers, bringing the total number to 1,638.

The agreement set out a number of milestones for change between 2001 and 2006. All the milestones set for completion by August 2004 were met, except the one related to additional support staff. This task was scheduled to have been completed by the end of March 2004 but, at that date, only 70 per cent of the target had been met. Local authorities report that this should have been completed by last month.

The final reduction in class contact time (to a maximum of 22.5 hours per week) will take effect this August.

It is difficult to assess the extent to which value for money has been achieved from the additional spending because clear outcome measures were not included in the agreement and have not yet been put in place by the various parties to the agreement.

The agreement is strong in detailing what needs to be done (as set out in the various milestones) and by when (the timetable for implementation), but it is not clear about how the relative cost and impact of the changes should be assessed.

The agreement, or subsequent guidance from the executive and other parties to the agreement, should have included specific outcome measures related to its expected benefits in areas such as: impact on educational attainment; improvements in classroom practice; the quality of educational leadership; workload and skill mix; workforce morale; and recruitment and retention within the profession.

The agreement has improved terms and conditions for classroom teachers but, at the same time, has contributed to increased workload for headteachers.

New administrative and support staff are now in place, but not all teachers are yet fully feeling the benefit.

Pay

The pay increase of 23 per cent over three years has secured stable industrial relations between employers and unions, and has brought entry-level salaries into line with average graduate pay. Satisfaction with pay is high among all groups of teaching staff (headteachers, deputes and classroom teachers).

Class contact time

The agreement set out a requirement for a phased reduction in maximum class contact to 22.5 hours a week (from this August), equalised across the primary, secondary and special school sectors. These requirements aimed to secure guaranteed time for lesson preparation and curriculum development, and placed a limit on the overall number of classroom hours a teacher must fulfil.

The reductions have been achieved by recruiting an additional 1,573 FTE teachers.

From a classroom teacher's perspective, the new arrangements are having a positive effect - two-thirds of teachers think that the reductions are working well.

However, many headteachers have concerns about the responsibilities that this initiative places on them; 63 per cent said they have had to provide cover to release teachers for non-class contact time. While new teachers have been recruited to cover this time, problems are arising due to unplanned staff absence and the availability of supply cover.

Administrative and support staff

An extra 3,125 FTEs have been recruited to reduce the administrative burden on teachers but, at March 31, 2004, the number recruited was still 30 per cent short of target. The benefits of these appointments are not yet being felt by the majority of teachers interviewed. The reasons for this are as follows: * There is a perception among teachers that the level of general administrative tasks over the period of the agreement has not reduced.

* Staff allocation to whole-school tasks (as opposed to classroom-based work) has not directly reduced the non-teaching taskload of the classroom teacher. Therefore teachers do not see any personal gain.

* Recruitment to these posts is still under way.

Teacher induction scheme

This scheme has successfully addressed the weaknesses in previous support and induction arrangements. Probation arrangements for newly qualified teachers have been transformed.

Changes include the introduction of a guaranteed one-year training contract, a maximum class commitment time of 0.7 of a full teaching load and probation to be completed in one year.

The induction scheme is one of the most successful elements of the agreement. Eighty-eight per cent of recent probationers feel it was a valuable preparation, and 88 per cent of headteachers feel it is working well.

Positive effects include: * A reduction in the time taken to achieve full registration from a largely unstructured period of two years or more to a formalised and concentrated one-year probation period.

* New, structured programmes of professional development for probationers.

* Improved entry rates from university into probation.

Difficulties rural local authorities face in recruiting teachers still remain. Vacancies for probationers are not always being filled as few students are expressing a preference to be placed in these rural areas.

Schemes to address this are being introduced, but it is too early to assess any benefits.

Continuing professional development

Under the agreement, the quality and variety of continuing professional development available to teachers has improved.

The agreement highlighted the importance of CPD and the resulting responsibilities of both local authorities and individual teachers. A maximum 35 hours of CPD a year for each teacher was introduced, along with the requirement for all teachers to have individual CPD records and plans.

Teachers are generally positive about the benefits of the additional time.

However, it is difficult to assess fully educational benefits and value for money as few local authorities have yet put in place effective monitoring and evaluation schemes.

Career structure

This has been broadly positive for the primary sector, but has proved more challenging in the secondary sector. Additional management restructuring is creating further changes and challenges.

The agreement introduced a new four-tier career structure from August 2002.

The structure was intended to increase management capacity and flexibility, reduce hierarchy and create a less complex structure, and address anomalies in pay versus management responsibilities through a job-sizing exercise.

In primary schools, the new post of principal teacher has had a positive impact - it has increased management capacity and career opportunities.

Almost all local authorities have used the changes to the career structure as an opportunity to carry out additional management restructuring. The underlying principle of reducing the number of middle managers has combined with the career restructuring to significantly reduce the number of promoted posts, and hence the career opportunities available in secondary schools.

The differing impact of these changes is reflected in the attitude of teachers. Primary teachers, headteachers and deputes are much more positive towards the career opportunities afforded by the new career structure than their secondary counterparts.

The continuing nature of additional restructuring means it is currently difficult to evaluate their impact alongside the changes to the career structure. Monitoring is required to allow judgments to be made in the future.

Chartered teacher scheme

The agreement regarded the chartered teacher scheme as an essential mechanism for recognising and rewarding excellence in classroom teaching.

Its introduction was one of the most significant changes to the career structure for teachers for many decades.

The scheme has not yet had the expected impact on the career structure for classroom teachers. Uptake has been slow but looks likely to increase in the future.

Chartered teacher status has been achieved by 201 teachers, However, fewer than 10 per cent of 30,000 eligible teachers were participating in the programme by February this year.

Of teachers interviewed who have been in the profession for under three years, 74 per cent say they are likely to participate in the scheme in the future. Overall, 32 per cent of teachers share this view. Teachers who successfully complete the scheme receive an additional pay increase of pound;6,492.

If the 32 per cent who have expressed an interest in the scheme follow through, the cumulative cost after 10 years would rise significantly, from pound;4.1 million to approximately pound;110 million.

The additional costs associated with chartered teachers mean there is a need to ensure these staff are used to best effect.

Finale

There is early evidence that good progress is being made in implementing the agreement, but sustaining this will be challenging and performance measurement arrangements need to be strengthened.

Looking further ahead, there is a risk that the requirements of the efficient government agenda, coupled with the risk of reductions in local govenment financial settlements, will create a more challenging environment for local authorities to sustain the positive momentum identified in this report.

The executive and local authorities will have to continue to work in partnership to sustain progress made so far and agree a comprehensive set of outcome measures against which the ongoing cost and impact of the agreement can be assessed.

Leader 22

The full report is available at www.tes.co.ukscotland

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