Teacher's primary role? Not to teach
TEACHERS have been told that their "primary responsibility above all others" is the wellbeing of children, rather than teaching.
The comments by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) have been met with disbelief and anger by parents' groups and teachers, with one union leader saying they defied description.
In the convention's submission to the McCormac Review into teaching pay and conditions, the authors wrote: "Teachers are part of the children's services workforce. Their terms and conditions need to stress that a teacher's primary responsibility above all others is the wellbeing of children within their care, and they have a duty to work in a collegiate way."
Jim Docherty, depute general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA), branded the remarks "stupid".
He told Scotland on Sunday: "Cosla is so far off the beam it does defy description. The role of a teacher is to teach.
"I think that they have too much of an idea that they can run all aspects of education services when they are better leaving it to professionals.
"They think that if they have been through the education system then they know it all. But when I had my appendix out it didn't make me a doctor and when I had my tooth out it didn't make me a dentist.
"The comment just falls into the stupid category. It's less than clever. It's disappointing that a particular inept remark has been allowed to creep into their submissions."
Dunfermline teacher David Farmer, who is also the Fife branch spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union, said: "If you ask any parent what should be the role of a teacher it would be to teach their children.
"There is some bonkers stuff in this Cosla submission and it will cast a cloud over the structure of Scottish education this summer.
"The Cosla proposals are short-sighted and could take us back 20 to 25 years, which was not a good time for Scottish education. It is a case of them saying 'We don't trust you' to teachers."
Parents also criticised Cosla over its submission.
Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "Parents think that the teachers' primary role is absolutely to teach.
"There is an element of confusion and concern and the local authorities seem to think that the teachers have some other role.
"If they are not there to teach children then why are they there?"
The McCormac Review is a re-examination of the McCrone deal implemented in 2001 to modernise the profession. It is being carried out by Stirling University principal Professor Gerry McCormac.
The review will look at the size and cost of the country's teaching workforce and consider whether the McCrone deal is suited to the newly-introduced Curriculum for Excellence. The findings are expected later in the summer.
Cosla's submission also called for a cut in holidays for teachers and more time spent in school rather than marking pupils' work at home.
But the council umbrella group's views provoked criticism from teachers online.
One posted: "Is the standard of parenting so bad that it must fall to teachers to ensure the wellbeing of their children?"
Another added: "If they rewrite our job description then they can do the same with our pay… Write to your MP, go to the rallies… I'm not a fervent union member but I do know when the very core of our job is under threat."
Another referred to Cosla as "vandals", adding they are "gleefully dismantling the education system while the electorate stands aside and lets them get away with it - public education in Scotland is doomed".
Docherty said: "Cosla seem hell-bent on annoying teachers when they need teachers on their side."
Spokesman for Cosla, David Kennedy, said: "Our submission to the McCormac review was unanimously endorsed by the leaders of all 32 councils. These are points for discussion, nothing is set in stone."
FOR: HUGH REILLY (Modern studies teacher, working at a Glasgow school)
I do see what Cosla means with this proposal.
There are far more family break-ups than there used to be and these difficult family backgrounds have a substantial effect on a child's ability to learn.
Pastoral care staff and guides used to deal with social problems at home but now every teacher deals with children who come from dysfunctional backgrounds. I'd have to be quite callous to just be a teacher with a lot of cases I see and it's only right that I take on a caring role when there are problems at home.
A lot of teachers are annoyed with Cosla about this but I think what they're trying to say is that children from dysfunctional backgrounds need to be cared for by teachers because often they simply aren't being cared for at home.
It's all about de-escalation these days; it's all about talking, and getting to know a child.
AGAINST: ANN BALLINGER (General secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association)
It seems to me absolutely ludicrous to state that the principal role of a teacher is not to teach. All adults involved with children have a duty of care. However, that is not their main function, or the main function of the dinner lady or the librarian. We all have that duty.
I don't know any responsible adult who would not look after the welfare of a child.
Are you going to speak to a parent, or a fifth-year pupil who is going to university, and say to them: 'We are going to stop employing teachers who really know their subject and employ people who care about your welfare'? It almost beggars belief.
It also calls into question the whole ethos of Scottish education, which is based on expertise.
A huge number of children have very responsible parents. Their welfare is being looked after without the need for an additional eight to 10 people looking after them.
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