McCormac review recommends more teacher flexibility

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Media captionThe McCormac review examined teachers' pay and conditions

Scotland's education system needs more flexibility so teachers can do their jobs better, a major review has said.

Stirling University principal Prof Gerry McCormac said the amount of time they spend in the classroom needs to be weighed up over a longer period.

And he concluded teachers needed greater support to run before and after school activities.

But the government-published review said there should be no change to teachers' working requirements.

That would mean the current 35-hour working week remaining, as well as the amount of class contact time, set at 855 hours.

But the McCormac review of teacher employment said the level of contact time should be considered over a greater period than is currently the case, such as across a month or a term.

It also said teachers should be staying on school premises during the day.

The report said: "Evidence indicates that the significant majority of teachers are hard-working and dedicated to their profession.

"However the strict division of the 35 hours into blocks of time is seen by some as not being open for discussion.

"We received evidence, mostly from teachers in schools, of frustration at the inflexibility of a small minority of their colleagues.

"This has created the impression that some teachers opt out of their professional obligations."

Pay 'acceptable'

The main recommendations of the McCormac review called for:

  • No increase in annual 855 hours of class contact time for teachers in Scotland, but use should be considered over longer periods.
  • No change in the 35-hour working week, but more flexibility needed to allow teachers to undertake collegiate work
  • Scrapping of the chartered teacher scheme, which offered major pay rises to staff who took advanced studies.
  • A revitalised system of professional and personal development for teachers
  • No change in contractual time put aside for teacher professional development, but the annual 35-hour allocation "should not be viewed as a time limit".
  • Teachers to "normally remain" on schools premises during school day

Elsewhere, the review said teacher pay was at an "acceptable level" and did not currently need looking at.

The government ordered the review 10 years after the the landmark McCrone agreement on teacher conditions.

It was credited with improving teachers terms, but criticised for not focusing on boosting school standards.

Issuing his findings, Prof McCormac, said: "Our recommendations reinforce existing good practice.

"Our advice on contact time will increase flexibility in the teaching profession, and revitalising professional development will enhance teacher education, further improving the quality of teachers in Scotland."

Education Secretary Mike Russell broadly welcomed the report, and said its recommendations would be discussed with teaching unions, local authorities and others.

He added: "Some of this work will be through the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers and some will be done separately and will build on partnerships already in play."

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, said the McCormac review had come at a time when "increasingly beleaguered" teachers were having to sacrifice some conditions while facing a pensions raid and a pay freeze.

He added: "The initial overall impression is that the report weakens key contractual protections introduced in the 2001 agreement and strengthens managerialist, as opposed to collegiate, approaches.

"Under the guise of 'flexibility', even greater burdens and controls are proposed for teachers who will have to rely on the benevolence of the headteacher to spare them from excessive workload."

"The proposals to reconfigure working time will not be well-received and, if implemented, would require a clock-watching approach that sits uncomfortably with enhanced professionalism."

Labour education spokesman Ken Macintosh MSP said some of the recommendations would "drastically" change teacher duties.

"With the number of teachers plummeting under the SNP, teachers are already under significant pressure - never mind piling more onto their plates," he said.

"Teachers should be left to teach, not dish out school dinners or repair computers.

'Plethora of rules'

The report was given a warm welcome by Liz Smith, the Tory education spokeswoman, who warned the government not to "cave in" to union pressure.

She said: "I welcome the recommendations that there should be greater flexibility within individual schools when it comes to setting teachers' terms and conditions.

"It is clear that good teachers and well run schools don't need a plethora of rules and regulations - people will be very upset if unions use these findings to create trouble and disrupt the education of children all across Scotland."

Lib Dem education spokesman Liam McArthur added: "Allowing greater flexibility between teaching time and non-contact time, for example, is potentially a helpful suggestion, but Scottish Liberal Democrats want to go further.

"Greater discretion should be given to head teachers in relation to staffing and managing their schools, to allow genuine excellence in education to flourish."

Isabel Hutton, who speaks on education issues for council group Cosla, said: "Local authorities recognise the dedication and hard work of teachers, associated professionals and all those who interact with the wider set of services responsible for the education and welfare of our children, and I feel sure that councils will support all appropriate measures to advance professionalism and strengthen teaching in Scotland."

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