Softly, softly policy urged on policing 35-hour week

6th April 2001 at 01:00
Local authorities that try to split teachers' 35-hour week into tightly prescribed blocks will end up creating "son of PAT", Donald Matheson, the secondary heads' chief McCrone negotiator, has warned.

In a parallel statement, Gordon Jeyes, the education directors' general secretary, called for "diversity, flexibility and delegation" in local negotiations on revised contracts and hours. Both were addressing separate conferences last week on the effects of the agreement that is now being worked through in local authorities.

Mr Jeyes was a key council adviser on the post-McCrone agreement and stressed that there was "no masterplan" for teacher hours. But the professional responsibilities of teachers had to be recognised, he told a conference in Renfrew.

Mr Matheson, addressing a Sportscotland seminar in Motherwell (see page four), said the "mechanistic" approaches some authorities were adopting would defeat the agreement's aim to create a new culture.

Staff had to be given collective freedom to shape their hours and management had to trust their judgment. Heads and senior managers should monitor the output of staff and the school, rather than set precise rules on staff time.

Mr Matheson, past president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland and head at Hermitage Academy, Helensburgh, believed over- prescription would be resented by staff who already put in well beyond their new contractural week.

"You will get son of PAT (planned activity time) if you cut up the hours and would get staff coming back to 35 hours," he said. Greater freedom would allow teachers to mak their professional contribution in return for a pay deal that was "double the previous best".

A strong supporter of the extended curriculum, Mr Matheson advocated a "menu" of opportunities. Staff might run the school football team, organise residential visits or take supported study.

But in a collegiate environment, all staff would be expected to add something to the school's priorities, agreed by all and set down in the school development plan. Once extended curriculum objectives were in the plan they would become "part of the bidding culture" and staffing would have to be set against them. Schools would want to innovate in different ways in the extended curriculum.

Mr Jeyes, head of children's services in Stirling, significantly delivered a similar message, emphasising "changed ways of working" by directors, headteachers, unions and the Scottish Executive. "The revised conditions of service are a restatement of professionalism, less top-down, collective not autonomous, a profession that speaks for children in partnership with parents and engaging with the community," he said.

Mr Jeyes urged caution in the first year to ensure developments did not become "enshrined practice".

He said: "Inevitably, we are still concentrating on yesterday's problems, yesterday's agenda."

Mr Jeyes asked: "If it can be done in a family, friendly fashion, perhaps using other external funding, can the range of sports, arts and culture activities not be increased, the pupil week lengthened and the teachers' maximum class contact given a degree of asymmetry?"

Leader, page 16

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