McCormac flexibility plans face resistance
Green light for non-teachers in the classroom sparks angry reaction
One of the most controversial recommendations in the McCormac report - that non-teachers be allowed to take classes on their own - was condemned as “professionally inappropriate and potentially illegal” by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
David Drever, GTCS council convener, said: “Although we recognise and value the contribution which can be made by, for example, visiting artists, sports coaches, writers and musicians, this successful work is based on a professional partnership with teachers who have detailed knowledge of subject content, of learning, and of pedagogy.”
EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith joined the attack, saying it was “particularly offensive that teachers are expected to fund fully the GTCS which is to be tasked with accrediting ‘light touch’ local authority schemes for non-teachers to be brought in to displace them”.
Within hours of the report’s launch on Tuesday, parallels had been drawn with Renfrewshire Council’s controversial proposal last year to use non- registered sports or cultural staff to cover “McCrone” or primary teachers’ non-class contact time - a move that led to threats of strike action by teachers and parental protests.
But Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said the McCormac proposals for the use of “external experts” were quite different as they placed all pupil contact time under the responsibility of the class teacher - unlike the Renfrewshire concept.
“I don’t have a particular difficulty with it,” he said, but added that primary heads would need to be reassured that proper safeguards were in place so that such schemes did not “head down the direction of Renfrewshire”.
Gerry McCormac, chair of the review team which this week launched Advancing Professionalism in Teaching: the Report of the Review of Teacher Employment in Scotland, insisted that any “external experts” would be working as part of a teacher-led programme of education for their class and he would expect them to be GTCS-approved.
“The class teacher should be responsible for the class during the entire pupil week,” said Professor McCormac. And if he or she was not comfortable leaving a class alone with an external expert because of discipline concerns, then they should not do so, he added.
Mr Smith said his initial overall impression was that the reported weakened “key contractual protections introduced in the 2001 agreement” and strengthened “managerialist”, as opposed to “collegiate”, approaches.
A theme running through the McCormac report is the need for greater flexibility in teachers’ working practices. It calls for them to have access to better continuing professional development to make them more effective teachers - echoing the vision outlined in the Donaldson review of initial teacher education, Teaching Scotland’s Future. In the current financial climate, it argues that it makes more sense to invest in teacher quality than marginally reduce class sizes.
The local authority umbrella body Cosla offered broad support for the main recommendations, although it was “disappointed” the review had not adopted its proposal to increase teachers’ class contact time from 22.5 to 25 hours per week.
The Association of Directors of Education in Scotland welcomed the moves towards a stronger position for staff review. It described as “positive developments” moves to scrap the chartered teacher scheme while introducing temporary additional payments to teachers for specific tasks and greater mobility in the workforce.
But Drew Morrice, EIS assistant secretary, argued that giving heads more scope to make temporary promotions raised questions over patronage. It also reinforced the need for a national staffing standard with a guaranteed promoted post structure that had management time built into it.
The success of the report would stand or fall on the level of trust in the system, said Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland.
“The removal of Annex E is really dependent on authorities playing the game here and not reducing the support that is available to teachers,” he said. But teachers should be prepared not to stick to rules too rigidly.
He backed the idea of teachers being expected to remain on the school premises during the pupil day for health and safety reasons and so that they were available for emergency class cover. If headteachers were too dictatorial or members of staff too obdurate, there were mechanisms in place to address these issues, he said.
Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, voiced concern about the proposal to link a “revitalised” professional review and personal development (PRPD) system to the GTCS’s proposed reaccreditation programme.
“The GTCS made it very clear that it didn’t see reaccreditation as being in any way connected to discipline or competence issues, but if PRPD is linked to it, there is no way it can avoid being part of a competency procedure.
“That could put unnecessary pressure on professionals - there is a very small but significant element of bullying within Scottish education which has in the last couple of years used the competency measures as a weapon where it is entirely inappropriate,” she said.
McCORMAC REPORT: THE KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
- Removal of Annex B of the teachers’ agreement - the duties teachers are expected to complete - and replacement with a new set of professional standards to be developed by the General Teaching Council for Scotland
- Removal of Annex E of the teachers’ agreement, which outlined the tasks they should not undertake, such as supervising pupils in the dining-room, first aid, photocopying, property management, recording of educational broadcasts, and administration of after-school care.
- No change in teachers’ 35-hour school week, but primary teachers will be expected to aggregate their non-class contact time in larger blocks of time and show more flexibility;
- CPD requirements for teachers to be linked to a revitalised system of professional review and personal development, which in turn should be linked to a new set of GTCS professional standards.
- Chartered teacher scheme to be discontinued.
- The current four-grade career and management structure to remain, but headteachers given more power to decide on the shape of their senior management team and to offer temporary promotions to principal teacher level for leading specific projects.
- All primary teachers to be responsible for their class for the entire 25-hour pupil-week, although they need only be in class 22.5 hours.
- External experts, who need not be teacher-trained, to be used in education programmes which should be organised, but not necessarily supervised, by teachers.
- No change to teachers’ pay, but attention should be paid to the impact of potential pension reforms.
- A further review of the job-sizing toolkit should be carried out to address anomalies in depute and headteacher salaries.
- No change to national negotiation machinery, the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers.
WHAT DOES McCORMAC MEAN FOR YOU?
The guaranteed one-year induction will continue, as will probationers’ class commitment of 0.8 of the week. However, hours could be deployed more flexibly in four-week blocks or over a term - or even built up over the year - while heads could reduce a probationer’s overall contact time if they felt this was warranted by their development needs.
Supply teachers should be entitled to better continuing professional development (CPD) and professional review and personal development (PRPD), implemented by local authorities. The McCormac report endorses the position of the most recent teachers’ agreement - that short-term supply teachers should be paid less than colleagues in permanent posts or long- term supply - but remits the precise arrangements for supply teachers’ pay to the SNCT (Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers). More opportunities for supply posts in primary will emerge, the report suggests, if the non-class contact time of permanent teachers is aggregated into longer blocks of time.
Teachers will in future be expected to spend the whole of the pupil day on school premises. Primary teachers will be expected to be more flexible over when they take their non-class contact, or “McCrone”, time; because of the constraints of secondary timetabling, this change will not impact on secondary teachers. A primary teacher will be responsible for his or her class for the full 25-hour pupil week and expected to plan into their teaching programme the deployment of external experts. Teachers should receive enhanced CPD and PRPD, explicitly linked to new standards of professionalism to be brought forward by the GTCS. They will also be offered more opportunities to apply for temporary promotions, paid at point 1 of the principal teacher scale, for leading discrete areas of work.
The discontinuation of the chartered teacher scheme leaves this grade in limbo. If SNCT negotiators follow previous practice, when the posts of senior teachers and assistant principal teachers disappeared, CTs’ enhanced salaries would be assimilated into the existing principal teacher structure - but the position of those part of the way through the CT programme is less clear.
Teachers in promoted posts will be given training to improve their use of a revitalised professional review and development system - now known as professional review and personal development (PRPD) - seen as an important means of enhancing teacher quality. They should have greater flexibility to organise collegiate activities and more opportunities to do things like job swops as part of a move to introduce greater mobility into the profession.
Greater devolved powers over temporary promotions within their own staff and the structure of their senior management teams should offer heads more say in how they run their schools. The push for greater mobility in the professions includes them, suggesting that in future they may not be as closely tied to their own school as they are now. Currently, a head’s PRD is usually carried out by a peer assessor and someone from their education authority; in future, more options should be available, including 360- degree review.