Workload is up, SSTA warns

THERE was more good news, bad news and confusing news for teachers this week as the second largest union released details of a survey which held contradictory messages.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association reports good progress on implementing the post-McCrone agreement in secondary schools, with 97 per cent reaching a school agreement.

Yet, despite the national settlement, two-thirds of members said their overall workload had increased in the past year and more than 60 per cent said the introduction of the 35-hour week had made no difference. More than half said that workload had risen above the 42-hour level the union's membership reported in April 2000.

This drew a remarkable conclusion from David Eaglesham, its general secretary, who said: "Taken together, these figures show that, far from reducing or limiting the workload of teachers, the agreement reached in 2001 may actually have led to an increase in workload for all teachers."

Mr Eaglesham seized on the figures, based on returns from 996 members, to refute claims by headteacher associations and others of clock-watching and teachers not fulfilling their side of the agreement. "It is abundantly clear that teachers are still continuing to deliver up to and even above the requirements of their job," he said.

There was now an urgent need for more support for teachers "to allow them to be able to use their professional skill more effectively rather than being tied up in red tape".

Although the union is satisfied with progress towards striking local agreements, half of those surveyed reported that the process of negotiation had strained relations between teacher representatives and school management.

One of the achievements highlighted in the survey, however, is that parent evenings feature strongly in school agreements, with 91 per cent of schools having five or six a year. Again, Mr Eaglesham said, this gave the lie to critics who claim teachers are taking a minimalist approach to their job.

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