Teachers' agreement is criticised for failing to raise standards

12th January 2007 at 00:00
The post-McCrone deal has led to 'real achievements', reports the HMIE, but has so far had little impact on attainment

a key test of the success of the teachers' agreement must be its "beneficial impact" on young people and their learning but, as yet, that impact is "very limited", according to the HMIE evaluation of the deal.

Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector of education, said: "We should not underestimate the scale of the work carried out. As yet, however, the agreement has largely affected teachers' pay and conditions, professional development and career structures.

"While we found specific examples of good practice, widespread impact on children's learning remains to be fully achieved."

The HMIE report, Teaching Scotland's Children, said reduced class contact time, new career structures, improved professional development and emerging new management structures were all being established.

"These developments represent real achievements and are a clear improvement on the situation which existed before," said Mr Donaldson. "In particular, the new arrangements to support probationer teachers are a major strength of the agreement."

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland and one of the key negotiators of the 2001 settlement, said: "Were we not to have had the agreement, where would we be? I remember the mood in the late Nineties. We were heading for the rocks at a speed of knots. The agreement bought space and time for us to be able to concentrate on educational matters."

Mr Smith believed the stronger emphasis on CPD meant the current climate for reforming the curriculum and changes in assessment was far more positive than it was at the time of the Higher Still reforms in the late 1990s. That was why he felt "very sore" about headlines that said the agreement had had no impact on attainment.

Bruce Robertson, president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said the most important legacy of the agreement was the impact in the classroom of the large numbers of new, high-quality entrants to teaching.

David Eaglesham, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers'

Association, accused HMIE of "seeking to interpose, retrospectively, standards for pupil attainment, the effect of local restructuring and national priorities for education as if these were themselves part of what was agreed in 2001". "They were not," he said. "In this sense, the report becomes an attempt to rewrite history and to analyse programmes against a revised set of purposes."

The 35-hour working week

The process of reaching agreements on how to allocate the 35-hour working week to different tasks generated "a more collegiate atmosphere", the report said.

However, de-volving such decisions to individual schools led, in some cases, to "wide and, at times, inappropriate variations" in the relative time allocated to such tasks as writing reports on pupils' progress and time for curriculum development work.

For example, in one authority the time allocated for writing reports to parents ranged from 15 hours in one school to 50 hours in another. The time allocated to curriculum development and staff discussion was, in the first school, more than three times the amount available for that purpose in the second school.

Fears that allowing teachers to carry out their preparation and correction at a time and place of their choosing would compromise emergency cover had been largely unfounded, the report said.

Reduction of class contact time

Various approaches were employed to provide cover for reduced class contact time: using supply teachers; employing an additional probationer, which allowed another member of staff to operate as probationer mentor and a relief teacher for other staff; developing members of staff as specialist teachers; and using visiting specialists.

HMIE found some evidence that the greater use of specialists was having a positive impact on pupils, but it acknowledged that managing these arrangements was proving difficult for some headteachers.

A few authorities wanted to aggregate non-class-contact time over a two-week period, although agreement had yet to be reached on this proposal.

"This would be particularly useful in rural areas, especially island authorities, where significant time and money was lost to travel for supply teachers," said the report.

It warned that, when specialists were used to provide non-class- contact time, there was a danger that class teachers would lose their expertise in delivering parts of the curriculum. To guard against this, some teachers used part of their CPD time to join specialist lessons, while one authority arranged for specialists to lead in-service training.

The report added: "In a few schools, aspects of the arrangements were inappropriate. Senior managers were too often taking classes, or taking lengthy assemblies which teachers did not attend, to deliver NCCT to teachers."


In the early stages of implementation the job-sizing process had a negative impact on the morale of some teachers.

The report added: "Lack of access to the weightings employed in the job-sizing process caused concern and hampered schools in modelling and costing a range of new management structures.

"Teachers often complained about perceived anomalies in the job-sizing process, although these anomalies were often easily explicable and related to salary conservation.

"In addition, promoted staff whose posts had been scored at a level just below a threshold on the revised scale, and had therefore narrowly missed being placed on the next higher scale point, felt that they had been treated unfairly."

There was little evidence that schools had suffered as a result of the claimed drop in some teachers' morale following job-sizing, the inspectors concluded. There was, however, evidence that some promoted staff on conserved salaries, particularly deputy heads and especially in the primary sector, were unwilling to apply for posts at the next level.

Chartered teachers.

Uptake of the chartered teacher programme was significantly lower than anticipated: in 2004-05 only half the money estimated by the Scottish Executive as being needed to fund pay rises for teachers progressing through the chartered teacher scale was required.

The low numbers of CTs meant their ability to make a positive impact on the overall quality of learning and teaching had been limited. By autumn 2006 there were only 335 CTs in Scotland. Some 2,000 were on the CT scale, although almost 1,400 had achieved only one or two modules.

HMIE said one weakness of the scheme was that teachers were able to put themselves forward for the programme - a criticism voiced by Bruce Robertson, president of ADES, late last year. One of the first announcements by Hugh Henry on his appointment as Education Minister was a review of the chartered teacher programme.

The report added: "Headteachers and education authorities had no opportunity to influence the selection process and were therefore unable to ensure that the best teachers were participating."

New career structures

The reorganisation of secondary school departments into faculty groupings aimed to deliver a modernised, flexible and inclusive curriculum, according to the report.

By 2006, there was evidence of some progress towards meeting the aim of recruiting high-quality leaders into the faculty head posts.

There were "encouraging examples" of better involvement of unpromoted staff in course planning and in auditing aspects of provision.

However, a significant number of teachers remained unconvinced of the benefits of the new faculty approaches. They had concerns about the arrangements for organising and carrying out curriculum development and dealing with pupil indiscipline.

Support staff

A key part of the agreement was the deployment of additional support staff to ease teachers' workload and create more time for teaching.

By March 2004, the initial target of an additional 3,500 staff had not been met, but by April 2006 the total number was just short of the target.

However, recruitment of support staff had not taken place evenly across all authorities and there remained room for further development in some.

A number of classroom assistants used in secondary schools expressed concerns about their levels of subject knowledge and skills and were anxious about supporting pupils in specific subjects.

However, there was evidence that principal teachers were becoming more positive about classroom assistants. They found them extremely helpful in, for example, preparing attainment information and reports to parents, and helping with organising information and resources.

Guidance staff in some secondary schools had been released to spend more time in direct support of pupils where support staff undertook tasks such as monitoring attendance, linking with welfare officers, and liaising with parents.


Principal teachers in primary schools were taking leadership roles and making an impact. However, there continued to be important or major weaknesses in leadership in a significant minority of schools in all sectors, and this proportion had shown little sign of improvement over the period of implementation of the teachers' agreement.

In secondary schools, senior leaders and principal teachers at times needed to take a more active role in challenging subject departments to improve learning and teaching. In primary schools, too, weaknesses in leadership often centred around a lack of focus on improving pupils' learning.

* Copies of the full report can be read on www.tes.co.ukscotland

The chartered teacher

Cathy Kerr (above), who teaches English at St Ninian's High in Giffnock, was one of the first tranche of 13 chartered teachers to be granted the new status.

Now in her 31st year of teaching, she achieved the status via the accredited prior learning route, which acknowledged her additional qualification in media education. That included compiling video evidence and consulting with pupils on what they thought made an effective teacher.

For her, being a chartered teacher is about effective practice, but she has also been keen to take up opportunities offered to her to mentor student teachers in her department and to deliver in-service training to newly qualified teachers.

"The quality of future teachers is very important to me, so I was happy to do this," she said.

Mrs Kerr has also taken part in an initiative that offered primary teachers CPD in teaching critical writing skills. "This was identified as useful because they weren't doing this until the later stages of primary, if at all," she said.

East Renfrewshire Council, Mrs Kerr's employer, was praised by the HMIE report for its compilation of a booklet of good practice by its chartered teachers for dissemination to other staff.

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