We are all losers from this flawed job-sizing

22nd August 2003 at 01:00
The Education Minister and the Educational Institute of Scotland should meet their critics, says Rosemary McDonald

Like my colleagues Rory Mackenzie (TESS, July 25) and Neal McGowan (TESS, last week), I would like to invite Peter Peacock and Ronnie Smith to visit secondary schools early in this new session to talk with the large numbers of promoted staff whose posts have been downsized, significantly in some cases, to try to persuade them that they should not feel "devalued".

The long-awaited job-sizing results, issued in the last week of the session, ensured that most secondary promoted staff went off on holiday feeling demoralised and undervalued. No amount of reassurances from headteachers like myself, repeating Mr Smith's mantra that it was the post and not the person that was "sized", could assuage the rightful feelings of hurt and annoyance.

While many of us from the beginning had major reservations about the basic concept of the job-sizing approach so much favoured by the private sector, the actual "one size fits all toolkit" which finally emerged from PricewaterhouseCoopers, with the imprimatur of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT), had clearly been devised by those who had little understanding of the management needs of secondary schools. It is based on a totally outmoded model which does not give recognition to the whole-school, cross-curricular developments we have been attempting to promote in recent years.

The (still secret) weightings which have been given to the four areas of responsibility measured by the toolkit obviously strongly favoured leadershipmanagement and curriculum developmentquality assurance, but regretfully took a very conservative, number-crunching approach to the interpretation of what these concepts mean in the reality of the modern secondary school.

The outcome of this approach has been that even in a large school of 1,400 pupils, not based in the leafy suburbs, out of 29 posts job-sized, 20 have been downsized, 14 by pound;2,600 or more.

The worst losers have been guidance principals who have been downsized to a scale point more than pound;5,000 below their current salary level. Other posts with whole-school remits, such as support for learning and ICT, have been losers. Little weighting has been given to "whole-school policy and implementation" and "working with partners", concepts which are so much more difficult to manage, yet vital to the delivery of an effective modern curriculum.

As a headteacher I ask myself how this exercise is meant to help me deliver some of the five national priorities, such as social inclusion, when it has devalued the promoted posts which are responsible for providing the lead in these vital areas?

Senior management teams and principal teachers (curriculum) have also been losers in this flawed exercise. The weightings and approach of the toolkit have apparently led to wide variations in the salary levels accorded to former assistant heads within the same team. In such a situation, how do I continue to promote collegiate responsibility? How do I revise or rotate remits, as advocated by HMI, in order to prepare aspiring senior management staff for promotion to future headteacher posts?

Given that the majority of PTs curriculum appear also to have been downsized, the pressure will be on headteachers to create "monster" departments, perhaps even without any apparent curricular cohesion (as we have seen in recent advertisements in this paper), simply to attract the job-sized scale points. However inflexible narrow subject-specific posts are, the key to adaptability lies in the remitrole devised for future PT (curriculum) posts and not in the contrived creation of over-large departmental groupings.

The job-sizing exercise will introduce a "points counting" attitude into secondary school management. There is the danger that posts will be created and remits devised to meet the demands of the job-sizing toolkit rather than the management structures required.

The Scottish Executive and the SNCT must heed these concerns. To refuse to do so will inflict lasting damage on the teaching profession. Even more importantly, it will inflict lasting damage on the educational provision of the young people in our secondary schools in the years to come.

To date we have all been losers. The winners? The private sector guru - PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Rosemary McDonald is headteacher of St Aidan's High in Wishaw.

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