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McCormac: a head's view

By 28 April 2012No Comments

The McCormac review on Teacher Employment in Scotland has now reported.  Although it contains no great surprises, the details require some analysis.
The report recommends the maintenance of teachers’ 35-hour working week but argues for those 35-hours to be averaged over a month or a term, avoiding the problems created by events such as parents evenings.  It has however dodged one key issue and left a major flaw which the unions will rightly exploit.  The review noted that many teachers work well in excess of 40 hours weekly but that despite being conscious of work life balance, was opposed to a rigid adherence to optimum hours.  The maintenance of the 35 hour week then becomes highly questionable and teachers in some schools will feel under pressure to exceed it regularly.  It also recommends an end to the freedom for teachers to leave the premises if not timetabled.   The main union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, has opposed this but it will raise few feelings among most teachers.  The only recommendation on pay is that the job-sizing toolkit (by which pay is calculated for promoted posts) be reviewed to eliminate anomalies.
Annex B of the McCrone agreement, the list of teacher tasks, is recommended for removal.  Teachers should work to a set of standards developed by the General Teaching Council for Scotland as the basis of their teaching practice.  There is also however a parallel proposal for the removal of Annex B, the list of tasks which are NOT the remit of teachers, photocopying, filing etc.  While these proposals will be welcomed as the removal of demarcation definitions, the Unions (teaching and non-teaching) will require to exercise caution that this is not used as a simple expedient to delete vital jobs, especially classroom support posts.
There is a strong emphasis on rigorous and relevant professional development, linked to professional review and spanning initial teacher education to master’s level qualifications, as an essential component of teaching professionalism.  The bulk of committed teachers will welcome this but the innate suspicion of systematic CPD by those who insist that, once past probation, all teachers are equal professionals, will remain.  While financial cuts mean reductions in local authority organised CPD, the implementation of this programme however will require pressure from below.  A strengthened annual review process, including re-accreditation and professional update, is also seen as the means of tackling the small number of under-performing teachers.
The four-scale career structure (teacher, Principal Teacher, Depute Head, Head) should be maintained.  The number and nature of promoted posts should be determined by Head Teachers to meet school needs rather than by a staffing formula.  The Chartered Teacher grade should be abolished but professional recognition given for innovation, collaboration, mentoring and research.
In a small but significant acknowledgement of ‘teachers as leaders of learning’, there is an implicit rejection of the demand by the employers, COSLA, that ‘the primary role for a teacher should not be to teach children but should be articulated in terms of ensuring the development, well-being, and safety of children.’    On national negotiating over conditions, the present machinery is endorsed but at school level the annual round of workplace negotiations around the 35-hour week is condemned and its replacement by a collegiate approach focussing on creating the best outcomes for the school and its pupils is recommended.
McCormac has sought to make professional structures more consistent with successful learning and professional innovation, while avoiding being seen as anti-teacher.  At the core of his proposals however is a systematic revolution in professional development.  That requires funding way beyond the local authorities’ present capacities.
The above article was first published in SecEd on 29 September 2011:;category_uid=115;section=Opinion

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