Reforms still a mixed bag

20th April 2007 at 01:00
Primary principal teachers are a good investment, but faculties face stiff test

EVIDENCE OF improving collegiality and better communication in secondary schools has been found by a review of faculty structures.

But the report by the Teachers' Agreement Communications Team found some newly-qualified teachers still did not have access to subject mentors, and even some more experienced teachers continued to feel insecure and professionally isolated.

The findings, based on a follow-up review last year of the faculty system in 14 schools in eight authorities, are more positive than the previous evaluation of faculty structures.

"Despite the challenges, the faculty leaders saw themselves as proactive middle managers, sharing the load with other managers within the school and providing consistency in policy implementation within the faculty and across the school," the report said.

But the team also found that many teachers remain unconvinced, and the tone of its report is in sharp contrast to the TAC team's review of the introduction of the post of principal teacher to primary schools. That review finds that PTs in primary have made a "significant, positive impact"

on the lives of staff, pupils and parents.

One effect was that school development plans were being completed more quickly because principal teachers had allocated time to concentrate on the curriculum. The post freed up headteachers and deputes to look more strategically at school developments.

However, a spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland identified two authorities, Aber-deenshire and Dundee, which still had no permanent primary PTs in place. Another two, South Ayrshire and Scottish Borders, had not implemented management time agreements for primary PTs because of budget pressures.

The TAC team report said: "Authorities which have not yet introduced the principal teacher post should be assured that, on the evidence here, the investment is very worthwhile."

Christine Wilson, headteacher of Langside Primary in Glasgow, said Laura Burke, her acting PT, had responsibility for leading aspects of the curriculum, such as enterprise for education and Assessment is for Learning, which had brought great benefits.

However, in Glasgow, the majority of PT posts were placed at level 1 on the job evaluation scale, which meant that PTs did not have responsibility for "man-management" - an area which Ms Wilson felt would have advantages in terms of succession planning and leadership development.

Miss Burke, 29, who has a large proportion of her timetable allocated to management duties, said being a PT gave her an opportunity to see the "big picture" and how a school was run from the manager's perspective, which a class teacher did not always see. Her ambition was to become a headteacher.

Faculties: pluses...

school structures with fewer promoted posts are easier to manage; improvements in communication; growing evidence of collegiality; positive attitudes by all teachers to the structural change brought material benefits to pupils, the school and the teacher's career; improved quality assurance, leading to greater sharing of knowledge and expertise amongst teachers; more professional freedom for teachers.

...and minuses

some teachers remain unconvinced and that could hamper the management of change; different management structures across the country present a source of tension for those who mourn the loss of the PT subject specialist; a sense of isolation among subject teachers; managing curricular change in a non-specialist area can be very challenging for some PTs; job-sizing continues to be an area of concern for some depute heads.

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