Under new management

19th August 2005 at 01:00
Some teachers believe secondary school middle management reorganisation into faculties is not the best way forward. Elizabeth Buie reports.

Tim has just resigned from his job as a principal teacher of biology in a state school to take up a similar post in the independent sector. His motivation is not money or indiscipline: it is the restructuring of secondary school management.

Like many others across Scotland, he is disillusioned over what he perceives as inadequate consultation with teachers and the introduction of new structures which do not make sense.

Tim (an alias) has left a large science department which now has two principal teachers, the existing physics PT and a new physics specialist.

He and the chemistry PT, have resigned, leaving a department which has more pupils studying chemistry and biology than physics.

He did not apply for the job to run the revamped science faculty because it would have meant less class teaching and more management - effectively the role of the now defunct assistant headteacher's post - and he had been told, he says, that he could retain his salary, duties and responsibilities under the new structure. However, once the appointments had been made, he was informed that things had changed and he could no longer keep his former responsibilities.

"The council thought people would be glad to give up their responsibilities and take the money," he says, "but we weren't glad to do that. I wanted to maintain my responsibilities, such as supervising other members of staff and looking after budgets. It's what I was good at and I enjoyed it."

Tim believes the school has effectively created a new management line of headteacher, depute heads and nine principal teachers who have taken on the role of the now defunct assistant heads, with responsibilities for strategy, guidance, pastoral care and discipline, and much less time for teaching.

What really bothers Tim is that he believes there was no need for such wholesale restructuring. There was, he says, nothing in the McCrone agreement to say it must happen. "The old system wasn't ideal but we're moving to a system where there is no real evidence for it and that's no good either."

While structures now vary from authority to authority and school to school, Tim is typical of the teachers who argue that the new promoted post structures, outlined in the post-McCrone A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century agreement, are responsible for declining morale, deteriorating school management and worsening discipline.

Some teachers are resigning to move to other schools just so that they can work under a principal teacher or faculty head who is a specialist in their subject. Anecdotal evidence also suggests some are pointedly looking for jobs in education authorities which have made the least radical changes in their management structures.

Teacher unions and secondary heads have, separately, either debated motions condemning the most radical restructuring or carried out surveys on the issue in recent months.

A survey by the Educational Institute of Scotland found that 80 per cent of teachers believed morale had declined since the changes were introduced; 54 per cent said overall school management had deteriorated; and 49 per cent said there was a decline in guidance and pupil support.

Education authorities have been particularly sceptical of EIS claims that pupil discipline has worsened as a result of changes to promoted post structures. However, one EIS representative in Dumfries and Galloway, John McMillan, offers an explanation for the deterioration in discipline. "Very often in the previous set-up, when you had a small department, the person in charge of discipline was two doors down the department. Now that person could be in a totally different annexe of the school. Situations which before were dealt with immediately now have to wait."

He adds that quite a few "decommissioned" PTs have been happy to lose the responsibility of managing pupil discipline.

"Decommissioned PT" is a phrase that has entered teachers' vocabulary. It comes from schools which have decided to move to faculty structures and created faculty head posts, relieving the principal teachers of many of their former duties.

Many principal teachers have decided not to apply for the new posts, the main reason being their long-term salary conservation under the teachers' agreement, whereas a faculty head post may not pay much, if any, more than their current salary while carrying more responsibilities and could be subject to job-sizing in the future.

The new posts, therefore, are tending to go to less advanced teachers - possibly defunct assistant principal teachers - for whom the salary differences are greater.

The teaching unions' biggest complaint about restructuring is that there is nothing in the teachers' agreement that compels education authorities to move in this direction. Yes, the agreement says that promotion structures should be simplified, but, they argue, there is no compulsion to restructure and schools could simply place teachers on different points of the pay scale.

An HM inspectors' review of progress of the agreement is underway, with the teachers' agreement communication team due to publish a draft paper on implementation of the new career structures at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Dougie Atkinson, co-ordinator of the team, has already identified authorities and schools where significant progress is being made.

In Highland, for instance, he commends the transition processes that have been achieved at Alness Academy, under headteacher Kenneth MacIver, and at Inverness High (recently selected as one of the first 20 schools of ambition), under headteacher Ritchie Cunningham.

Mr Cunningham has two deputes and created an additional PT post to strengthen his pupil support provision. Under the council system, the number of PT posts is defined by pupil numbers.

"I put forward a couple of models - one based on the allowance that the local authority gave us and my preferred model - and put them out for consultation with estimates to show the whole school aspects. There were staff meetings to discuss the merits and demerits of the structures.

"The staff, on the whole, took the view that they may not like moving to a faculty structure but we were not going to get away with the status quo, so we came up with something that worked for us."

Inverness High serves the only area of multiple deprivation in Highland and learning supportwas the school's largest department under the previous structure, with one PT and three APTs. Now the school has three PTs for pupil support and two guidance teachers (former APTs).

It also now has six curriculum faculties: creative studies (art, music and physical education); languages (English and modern languages); humanities (religious education, history and geography); numeracy (technical studies and mathematics); scientific studies (biology, chemistry, physics and home economics); and information technology (business studies, computing and open learning).

Alness Academy is in the process of restructuring to a model which includes two depute headteachers and nine PTs, three with responsibility for pupil support and six curriculum PTs who support the six faculty groupings of: Gaelic, modern languages and English; history, geography, geology and religious, moral and personal studies; business studies, computing and maths; physics, biology, chemistry and general science; home economics and PE; and music, craft design and technology, and art.

Their departmental responsibilities include teaching classes, discipline, liaison with parents, development planning and quality assurance, budgets and requisitions, supporting staff, continuing professional development and staff reviews and supporting probationers and students.

At the same time, they will be responsible for a project under the following headings: curriculum; raising achievement, learning and teachingassessment; promoting a positive ethos, staff supportprofessional development; quality assurance and development planning. (There is also a seventh short-term PT project post without a subject link.) Other schools across the country have developed other management structures. Five teachers tell us what is happening in their authorities.

Larry Flanagan. PT English. Hillhead High, Glasgow

"In our authority it's left to individual schools to proceed apace.

"Shortly after the post-McCrone agreement, schools were told they had to draft an outline of proposed management structures to be achieved as and when people left posts. Some have been more proactive than others in cutting posts.

"There have been cases of schools with three science principal teachers and when they decided to create a faculty head, the PTs have not applied. Most of the PTs are pre-McCrone appointments, so their salaries are conserved for life. If they applied for a faculty head post, it would come under the new conservation arrangements, so it would be conserved for only three years. The pre-McCrone PTs are not taking that risk, so the faculty heads are new people coming in, younger teachers being promoted.

"After the Educational Institute of Scotland survey on management restructuring, Glasgow agreed to have another round of talks about how the whole system is going. While they have changed some of the structures, it has not had any real impact on curriculum and attainment."

David Maxwell. PT geography. Williamwood High, Clarkston, East Renfrewshire

"In the smaller schools, faculties have not always been established along the lines of modes; larger schools have identified the subjects they thought should be grouped together.

"In my school, geography is in with biology, while history, modern studies and religious education are in another faculty. In other schools, all the social subjects are grouped together.

"Teachers are generally against it because they don't feel they get the same lead from the principal teacher, because the PT is qualified in another subject. Where the faculty head is not qualified in the subject, somebody else is left to look after that area of the new faculty, but they have no responsibility for it. The subjects that suffer will be the ones that don't have the specialist as the faculty head."

Aileen Barrie. PT geography. Clyde Valley High, Wishaw, North Lanarkshire

"Most North Lanarkshire secondaries have moved along the road of restructuring. The big subjects have been more or less unaffected but in the smaller schools you get posts like PT languages and communications. The smaller schools have a points budget to work with; the bigger the school, the more discretion.

"There has been concern over the number of re-advertisements for jobs. They don't seem to be getting huge numbers applying for posts, but it's difficult to tell whether people don't fancy the job or there are not the people there.

"There will be cases where a faculty head is not an expert in other subjects. They could possibly carry out day-to-day discipline and management duties, but younger teachers, students or probationers might have concerns about who was giving them the subject advice. When I was a young teacher, I had a PT and an APT I could go to. At the end of the day, it depends on good will - but the faculty head is paid to do it."

Margaret Nicol. PT learning support. Madras College, St Andrews, Fife

"In our authority there is quite a good agreement which includes a clause that schools can retain the structures they have always had if that worked for them. In terms of what is happening, it is quite variable - it depends on the head.

"In my school, about 80 per cent of the teachers didn't agree with the school plan, but it has gone ahead anyway. I teach in one of the biggest schools in Scotland - 1,800 pupils - and we could have retained the old PT structure, but we lost three PTs.

"The agreement in Fife is to move towards all this restructuring by 2011, as and when vacancies arise. But in pupil support, they are simply producing an overall PT who will be responsible. In every school it means something different.

"The current PT responsible for special education is paid on point 7 of the salary scale (pound;41,400), but the person appointed to run all three departments of learning support, behaviour support and special education can only be paid point 8 (pound;42,780).

"Staff are frankly quite demoralised and not clear that the management structures are better."

John McMillan. PT English and drama. St Joseph's College, Dumfries

"Dumfries and Galloway went for a fairly strict template: when they are creating posts in a big new department they are not using the full (salary points) scale. That means that there have been quite a lot of reductions in posts. A lot of teachers already in PT posts didn't apply for, or were rejected for, the new posts. We are calling them the decommissioned PTs.

"My department became English, drama and media studies, which is not as bad as some. There are others such as history, geography and home economics - not a cognate group. It's all about job-sizing to make certain that posts are all at the same level.

"The real problem of teacher shortage has impacted badly in schools. We can't have a lot of people freed up to do management tasks, as we are routinely covering for absent colleagues."

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