Teachers' 35-hour week is questioned by architect of deal
THE 35-hour working week for teachers was never intended to be a cap on their workload, the architect of the landmark pay and conditions agreement brokered for Scotland's education sector reveals today.
In a rare intervention since his report ushered in a radical review of teaching in Scotland a decade ago, Professor Gavin McCrone says he finds it "disturbing" that there were reports the idea that teachers should work 35 hours per week had affected extracurricular activities and parents' meetings.
Writing in The Scotsman today, Prof McCrone also says the latest Scottish Government attempt to review teachers' pay and conditions must not simply be a money-saving exercise, warning that to follow that route would be "very damaging" and could cause industrial unrest.
The pay and conditions agreement that formalised the 35-hour teaching week, plus a 23 per cent pay rise over three years, was introduced in an attempt to bring teachers into line with other professionals.
In return for the pay rise, teaching leaders agreed to more flexible working conditions.
It became known as the McCrone Agreement, because it was based on a report written by Prof McCrone that was commissioned by the Scottish Government of the time.
Despite the agreement carrying his name, Prof McCrone says today that he was not party to the final deal, which was brokered by the then Scottish Government, teaching unions and local authorities.
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Prof McCrone has rarely discussed the agreement in public, but today he reveals that he was "dismayed that the agreement referred in stark terms to the 'introduction of a 35-hour week'," given that he was calling for greater flexibility in return for more pay.
Although he acknowledges that many teachers were prepared to work beyond 35 hours, Prof McCrone expressed disappointment that the final agreement differed from his original report.
Prof McCrone writes: "What we had said in the report was that 'teachers were not alone in working beyond their notional 35-hour week… like other professional people, teachers will probably always work beyond the hours stated in their contracts. We therefore recommend that 35 hours should continue to be the basis for the contractual week'.
"The 35 hours was therefore not intended by us to be anything new, and certainly not some kind of cap. It was disturbing that there were reports of extracurricular activities or parents' meetings being curtailed because of this."
Recently, ministers announced the McCrone Agreement would be re-examined with a new group, led by Stirling University principal Professor Gerry McCormac, looking at the size and the cost of the country's teaching workforce.
In his article, Prof McCrone argues: "If, in setting it (the group] up, the Scottish Government was simply looking to save money, that could be very damaging. It could result in renewed unrest and undermine progress already made."Last night, Prof McCrone's concerns were shared by the teaching unions.
"Gavin McCrone has it right when he says such an approach would be damaging and there will be unrest," said Jim Docherty, the general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association.
"That is because the whole thrust of the CoSLA agenda is about saving money and they have forgotten about the provision of education. They don't want to talk about it."
Ronnie Smith, of the EIS, said: "I would entirely agree with Prof McCrone. If this review is to have any credibility, it should not be constrained by depressing costs. I f that were to happen it would diminish the value of its outcome."
But he took issue Prof McCrone's comments on the 35-hour working week.
"I have never heard of parents' nights or extracurricular activities being affected," Mr Smith said.
Last night, a Scottish Government spokeswoman responded to Prof McCrone's views, saying: "Education secretary Michael Russell recently asked Professor Gerry McCormac to conduct a review, ten years on from the McCrone Inquiry.
"The McCormac Review will examine a range of issues related to teacher employment, including whether the agreement is delivering all the benefits that were intended for both teachers and pupils, is suited to the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence. It will also examine the cost and size of the teacher workforce in the context of the current financial climate.
"It is now for Prof McCormac and the team to consult with a range of stakeholders and bring forward recommendations to Scottish ministers."
The "McCrone" Agreement brokered by local authorities, teaching unions and the Scottish Executive led to teachers receiving a 23 per cent pay rise in return for more flexible working patterns.
Also included was the "introduction of a 35-hour week", plus a phased reduction in maximum class contact time to 22.5 hours per week, to give teachers time to do marking and other tasks. It simplified teaching career structure into four main grades.
A new chartered teacher status would be available to those who qualified in an attempt to keep talented teachers. Chartered teachers would see their pay eventually go up from 34,200 to 41,900. A teacher induction scheme guaranteed all newly qualified teachers a one year training contract.
Teachers would receive 35 hours per year of professional development.
65 the number of days of annual leave that teachers in Scotland receive.
5 equals the number of in-service training days that teachers have to undertake each year.
5.6 weeks, the minimum amount of paid annual leave the government says workers are entitled to.
35 hours, the average length of a working week for teachers.
48 hours, the maximum amount of time the government says that an individual's working week on average should be.
23% equals the pay rise, over a three-year period, that was agreed ten years ago.
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