Too little room to move on up

11th February 2011 at 00:00

It is now 10 years since the teachers' agreement was signed and I think it has proved a quite awful settlement on many counts, never clearer than in the agreement to cut the number of promoted posts in schools. This has had a negative impact on the morale and motivation of teachers.

The movement of teachers between schools has declined, and many face spending their careers in just one school. Some feel trapped in posts which offer few opportunities for a change.

For hard-working and enterprising teachers, promotion provides recognition and positive reinforcement for their efforts. Talented graduates are more likely to be attracted to a profession which offers a good chance of career advancement.

Schools also benefit from staff mobility, with new arrivals bringing in new ideas and new perspectives.

For heads, a larger basket of promoted posts helps raise staff motivation. In most work spheres, it is generally accepted that people work better when they have something to aspire to.

Prior to the agreement, each secondary subject had its own principal teacher post and, in larger departments, assistant principal posts as well - a system which worked well and helped to ensure high standards of learning and teaching in each subject. Now, we have heads of department with very little expertise in some of the subjects for which they are responsible.

Overworked heads of English have responsibility for languages and literacy across the curriculum. Maths principals may be responsible for IT as well as numeracy.

As well as a return of PTs for subject departments, I would like to see new promoted posts - PTs of learning and teaching - created to recognise excellent class teaching. Holders would remain in the classroom and work to improve the school's overall standard of learning and teaching.

PTs of learning and teaching would, for example, provide much-needed support for new teachers and those experiencing difficulties with their classes.

One folly of our present and past systems is that it takes too many talented teachers out of the classroom to do pastoral care and administrative work. Many PTs now have more than 40 per cent of their timetable devoted to non-teaching duties.

Many brilliant teachers have been promoted and rewarded with 12-15 non- teaching periods. What a loss to pupils.

Promotion procedures must also become fairer and more transparent. With fewer posts available, competition for interviews has become more heated and contentious. There are more arguments and disputes over leets and appointments.

The average promoted post is valued, according to one calculation, at around pound;10,000 per year. The system would work much better if the same pot of money was used to create twice as many posts with renumerations averaging pound;5,000 per year.

Promoted posts are, of course, decided by interview, which is fortunate for those who perform well in these unusual situations and less fortunate for those fine teachers who do not.

Many teachers would agree that interviews have now passed their "sell-by date", and that measuring and recording actual competencies is more useful than assessing people on interview performances.

Poor appointments arise because candidates can appear impressive during interviews but disappointing in the posts concerned. The business world has become less dependent on interviews and it has to be only a matter of time before education follows suit.

John Greenlees is a secondary teacher.

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