Principals' pay

31st May 1996 at 01:00
Mike Webster of Perth College (Letters, May 17) contests my claim that the salaries of further education principals are not in the public domain by stating that "salaries must be disclosed in each college's annual accounts and are not secret".

In fact, college accounts are not available to the public on a free and untrammelled basis, as the Scottish Office has duly confirmed. Application for permission to study them has to be made to the college authorities, which means the principal, and permission is granted only if the purpose for which the enquirer seeks the information is approved of by the authorities. In other words, there is a veto.

To suggest that information obtainable under such constraints is within the public domain is disingenuous at best. I note that Mr Webster does not dispute my contention that salaries of principals have increased more rapidly than those of their teaching staffs in the period since incorporation. He mentions the "massive increase in managerial and legal responsibilities" borne by principals which would presumably justify such a disparity.

What college these days would regard itself as fully developed without such departments as "human resources" or "finance"? One principal, for example, has fewer than three "assistants to the principal", while in many colleges competent teachers have been elevated to non-teaching posts ostensibly to enrich the quality of management.

As for achieving "efficiency gains", the solution has generally been along entirely predictable lines of having fewer teachers, a higher proportion of them part-time, teaching larger classes for longer hours.

RODERICK MacFARQUHAR 31 Cumberland Street Edinburgh

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