Trade-off begins over class contact time

12th November 2010 at 00:00
Green light to renegotiate national agreement could see 1,500 positions cut

The employers' side of the teachers' agreement sought Government backing this week for its bid to increase teachers' class contact time.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) wants to make a trade-off with the Scottish Government. In return for accepting a council tax freeze, its members want to be given the green light to renegotiate the national teachers' agreement, increasing teachers' hours in the classroom, which would allow them to cut teacher numbers by 1,500.

As The TESS went to press this week, no agreement had been reached, although talks were expected to continue in the run-up to the Government's Scottish Budget statement next Wednesday.

It is understood that Cosla and the Government hope to reach a consensus over which areas of the teachers' agreement can be opened up for renegotiation before Finance Secretary John Swinney announces his Scottish Budget on Wednesday.

Although the pre-Budget talks between Cosla and the Scottish Government covered a number of areas, they are understood to have focused on aspects of the 2001 national teachers' agreement which councils in particular want to open up.

An increase in teachers' class contact time is the main prize being eyed by local authority employers. Earlier this year, Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said he wanted teachers to spend an additional 30 minutes a day in contact with their classes - a move which would save his authority an estimated pound;15 million annually, while still leaving teachers with 10 hours' paid preparation time every week. Since then, other council leaders have expressed similar aims.

While Education Secretary Michael Russell last month told the Parliament's education committee he accepted that any agreement which was 10 years old probably needed to be revisited, there is growing speculation that SNP ministers will baulk at cutting a further 1,500 teachers' jobs in the run- up to the Scottish elections.

The Educational Institute of Scotland refused to comment on speculation around the pre-Budget Cosla-Government talks. Assistant secretary Drew Morrice said the appropriate venue for raising issues around the teachers' agreement was the next meeting of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers on December 8.

The EIS is known to be opposed to any proposal that would lead to further teacher job losses.

  • Original headline: Trade-off begins over teachers' class contact time

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