Teaching laid bare

7th January 2000 at 00:00
I am not a teacher but I was pleased to see that the Educational Institute of Scotland is commissioning research into teachers' workload as part of its evidence for the McCrone committee of inquiry. Like Ronnie Smith (TESS, December 24) I have no doubt that the research will uncover unwonted (and unnecessary) burdens being borne by staff across the country, primary and secondary.

These are unwonted because they have been allowed to increase over the years, excused if at all only by the suggestion that everyone in society has had to learn to work harder and teachers should be no exception.

They are unnecessary because while other jobs have been able to reduce rote tasks through modern technology, the amount of bureaucracy and form filling (in ink or word-processed) has grown and if the HMI have their way will continue to do so. I am told that the internal assessments for Higher Still are the final strawb - sorry, they won't be final, silly me: there is bound to besomething else round the corner.

My point is not to moan on behalf of others. The McCrone committee is supposed to chart a way for the teaching profession in the new century. But the problems that will be brought to it and are bound to be uncovered through the research are not new. They were around 15 years ago, and indeed were contributory to the two-year dispute.

The Main committee of inquiry did, albeit with a rather narrowerer remit, what McCrone is being asked to do again. Will anyone listen this time? Minister after minister has pledged not to burden teachers further. Yet the strain gets worse. Professor McCrone should set up his own research - a detailed study of what teachers actually do, hour by hour, day by day.

How much is essential, how much time is being wastefully taken away from work with the pupils, how many of the time-consuming chores could better be undertaken by school support staff?

Aileen Johnston Calder Road, Edinburgh


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