Toolkit must be reviewed soon

6th October 2006 at 01:00
The Association of Heads and Deputes in Scotland welcomed the Information Commissioner's decision that the job-sizing toolkit should be freely available. It is a pity that things have had to reach this stage before promoted post-holders in Scotland's schools can have an opportunity to understand the system used to award their salaries.

We have always held the position that the toolkit should be open to post-holders; failure to do so has resulted in confusion and hostility from the profession. It is disappointing to hear that Aberdeenshire Council has decided to appeal against the decision (see page 6), but I remain hopeful that the toolkit will soon be open for all to see and, perhaps, understand.

School leaders will finally be able to test widespread concerns about the accuracy of input to the toolkit by some local authorities in the original calculation of job-size scores. Indeed, it will enable post-holders properly to compare and contrast salaries across local authority boundaries, allowing perceptions about different application in different local authorities to be tested.

School leaders will (if they have time to look at it properly) start to ask serious questions about the factors considered and the weightings applied in arriving at their salary - and those in the EIS will start to ask questions about how effective their union was in negotiating a rational, transparent system of job-sizing which is fit for purpose.

Does the toolkit demonstrate a full understanding of the roles and responsibilities of school leaders? For example, it is my understanding that the toolkit awards only one point (not even an additional salary level) to the job-sizing score if a headteacher has responsibility for more than one school. It also awards one point for the organisation of school transport.

Any promoted post-holder in Scotland would tell you that running a second school has a bigger management burden than organising transport.

This development will also shed light on other concerns, such as the toolkit not being wholly applicable in different settings. Again using the arrangement of school transport as an example, the number of points awarded for it in a special school will be the same as for the same number of children in a mainstream school.

The reality is that there is normally little work involved in this for a mainstream school, but a special school may have different travel arrangements for each of its pupils.

Since the exercise assesses salary, it is also a statement of contractual conditions. HMIE is asking heads to be dynamic leaders, yet the very nature of this exercise means that headteachers are unable to change the remits of their management teams because salaries are fixed by job-sizing.

"Growth" in schools is therefore restricted and new challenges for promoted staff are limited. Open access to the toolkit will at least let headteachers understand what flexibility they have to vary the roles of their management team without causing salary fluctuations. Traditional career structures have been removed, with the result that appointment of headteachers is being seriously affected.

We argue that the toolkit must be reviewed as soon as possible, and we have already had useful exchanges with the Education Minister and the local authorities.

Greg Dempster AHDS general secretary

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