Staff face curtailed holidays

4th May 2007 at 01:00
Students who apply for university, after their Higher results are known, pose dilemma

TEACHERS ARE being warned they may have to work during the summer holidays if changes to university admissions go ahead.

Under plans being considered by Ucas, the university admissions body, pupils would be allowed to apply after receiving their exam results. This might force staff back into schools in early August to help pupils with late applications.

Richard Goring, a senior figure in the Scottish Secondary Teachers'

Association (SSTA), has called on members to back post-qualification applications at their annual congress next week. But he has warned that the changes would add to teachers' workload.

Mr Goring, depute head of Hamilton Grammar, said that teachers writing references must take time to do pupils justice. Guidance staff would also have to return early to support pupils in choosing courses and writing personal statements. He dismissed the option of pre-prepared statements and references as not giving applicants the best possible chance of winning a place.

According to Mr Goring, the model being mooted by Ucas is a continuation of the traditional December application deadline, with universities being encouraged to reserve some places for applications after results are known.

The problem hinges on schools not knowing in advance how many pupils will choose to apply for university after doing better than expected in their Highers.

Mr Goring said: "I'm all for more applications, but the question is: how do we support those pupils at the beginning of August when schools are on holiday? Obviously, we want to give those people the best opportunity - we wouldn't want to sell them short."

David Eaglesham, SSTA general secretary, said he expected the motion to receive widespread support. "I think people realise the idea of post-qualification application is a good one because it is better to be in full possession of all the facts. But there is an implication that schools will need to be staffed to deal with that," he said.

He added that Mr Goring's motion reflected a growing desire among teachers to protect the working conditions enshrined in the national teachers'

agreement. "We made major concessions in 2001, and if we keep on making piecemeal changes, the agreement will simply erode away," he said.

Last year, plans to reform university admissions caused a schism between Westminster and the Scottish Executive. Bill Rammell, the English higher education minister, wanted all universities, by 2012, to offer places only after A-level and Higher results were known. But the then Scottish lifelong learning minister, Nicol Stephen, expressed concern that the proposals would disadvantage applicants north of the border.

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