Teachers must 'talk up' vocation

14th September 2007 at 01:00
THE HEAD of the General Teaching Council for Scotland has called for a fresh look at the salary structure in schools to create better progression to leadership roles.

Matthew MacIver, chief executive, signalled the need to change the climate in schools to one where the teaching profession was self-sufficient. He told the annual conference of SELMAS (Scottish Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society) in Edinburgh last week: "They [teachers] have to be properly rewarded, not just in financial terms. They must be completely confident, well-tuned and see quite clear career progression."

He also called for headteachers to become more integrated with the rest of the profession, so that a new generation of teachers was encouraged to take on leadership roles.

Mr MacIver expressed concern at moves by the Headteachers' Association of Scotland to change their name to a variation on the term "school leaders", rather than simply heads. There was "a fine balance to be struck between making one section of the profession different from the rest", he said.

Headteachers, in his view, should be seen as an integral part of the profession not apart from it. He also called on heads to "stop being the prophets of doom about a leadership crisis in Scottish schools". He acknowledged that at last year's HAS conference, he had been one of those prophets of doom, causing a "media frenzy" by specifying precisely how many primary and secondary heads would have to be appointed in the coming five years to replace those who were retiring.

But Mr MacIver said it was time to ask critical questions about the system and start turning it around if young teachers were to be encouraged to move into leadership roles. "We have a system of constraints and structures, rather than one which creates a climate of opportunity," he said.

Among the questions that should be asked were:

* Have we concentrated so much on attainment that we have forgotten how much can be achieved by a profession allowed to be creative?

* Have we given teachers too much of the load?

* Has our leadership been up to it?

* What kind of leadership has the profession had from local government?

* What kind of message is being given and where does the role of the teacher now lie in a world where the holistic view of the child is seen as being paramount?

* What kind of message is being sent out when the roles of directors of education are being changed to directors of children and families?

All these issues were surmountable, said Mr MacIver. What was crucial was the creation of a different climate in schools around Scotland through a conversation that would encourage the new generation of well-trained, enthusiastic teachers in their careers.

He returned to a familiar theme for him the need for teachers to start talking up their own profession. The very people advising young people not to become teachers were often the teachers themselves, he said.

"If teachers are interested in being school leaders, they must feel that they are aspiring to lead one of the most fundamental institutions in a free democratic society," he concluded.

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