Teaching terms

Letter in The Scotsman, 16 September 2011

A far more “stark attack on teachers” than the McCormac Report (Hugh Reilly, 14 September) was the acceptance, at the Teachers’ Panel of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, of the revised terms and conditions package for teachers by the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Voice (the union for education professionals) and the other unions had a mandate from their membership to reject the package, which seriously attacked the McCrone Agreement of 2001.

The largest teaching union in Scotland used its power to push through acceptance of a package which more than 75 per cent of Scottish teachers rejected, yet it now threatens strikes over changes to teachers’ pensions that have yet to be proposed or discussed.

Following the McCormac Report, there will be discussions on its recommendations between the Scottish Government and the unions. Ministers will consider the recommendations before making any decisions, so the extent of McCormac’s implementation and the “inevitability” of industrial action are far from certain. Scottish teachers did “expect the worst” over the McCormac Review but it was not as radical as expected. It avoided some of the more extreme elements of Cosla’s controversial submission, confirmed many current practices and recommended there should be no change to the length of the current contracted week of the annual amount of class contact time.

There are admirable proposals on professional development for teachers and support staff. Classroom assistants, the “valuable assets” as they were once described, deserve greater recognition.

Some of its recommendations would be a leap in the dark for the profession and erode rather than advance the professionalism of teachers by, for example, prescribing how they should carry out non-contact duties.

Although it has not been the success that was hoped for, Chartered Teacher Status has been of value and should be reviewed rather than discontinued. It is important that there should be alternative career paths for those who want to remain and develop and be rewarded as excellent teachers but who do not want to move into senior management and away from actual teaching.

However, the lot of support staff may be under greater threat of worsening than that of teachers. The recommended removal of the “list of tasks [that] should not routinely be carried out by teachers” would both undermine teachers’ professionalism and increase their workload as well as threaten the roles of those support staff who currently undertake the tasks.

Maureen Laing, Senior Professional Officer, Voice Scotland



Voice Scotland

0131 220 8241