Review of McCrone teaching deal announced

Classroom The McCrone deal gave guarantees on teacher pay and conditions

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Scottish ministers have announced a review of the size and cost of the country's teaching workforce, under a re-examination of the McCrone deal.

The agreement, implemented in 2001 to modernise the profession, will be reviewed by Stirling University principal Prof Gerry McCormac.

It will also consider whether McCrone is suited to the newly-introduced Curriculum for Excellence.

Teachers currently work 35 hours, with 22.5 hours spent teaching.

Labour branded the move an "attack" on teacher conditions of service.

Announcing the review, Education Secretary Mike Russell said: "Ten years on from the landmark report of the McCrone inquiry, and the agreement on pay and conditions which followed, the time is right for a fundamental review of the changes it has engineered.

"McCrone has undoubtedly delivered a well-paid, highly-qualified, professional workforce and we now have tens of thousands of talented teachers teaching hundreds of thousands of better-educated pupils.

"However, a lot has changed in the past decade, most notably the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence, which provides new challenges for teachers and pupils, and we need to ensure we continue to attract the right kind of people into the profession to deliver this new approach to learning and teaching."

The remit of the McCrone review will consider whether:

  • The agreement is delivering all the benefits that were intended for both teachers and pupils
  • It is suited to the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence, which aims to give teachers more freedom and make lessons less prescriptive
  • It attracts the most-talented people into the teaching profession
  • The cost and size of the teacher workforce is appropriate in the context of the current financial climate.

The latest figures showed there were 54,600 full-time equivalent teachers between April and June last year in Scotland - an eight-year low.

The original McCrone deal agreed between councils and teaching unions, guaranteed teachers more than 12 hours a week to spend marking and preparing lessons in school.

Analysis

The McCrone deal was meant to bring teachers into line with other professionals such as accountants and lawyers.

Teachers had been unhappy for many years about their pay and a perceived lack of status.

The councils who employed them were unhappy about complex working agreements which they claimed were akin to those of train drivers.

In return for a 23% pay rise over three years, teaching leaders agreed to more flexible working conditions.

And those who studied for the new Chartered Teacher qualification could earn considerably more.

Some teachers felt the deal left them with salaries some way behind those of other professionals.

Some employers felt the then Scottish government had secured few changes for its bucks.

Members of the McCrone inquiry concluded that, while teachers worked hard, it wasn't necessarily harder than other professionals - especially when three months annual holiday was taken into account.

Employers maintain the deal is a drain on the public purse and are pressing for changes.

Teaching leaders already facing a likely two year pay freeze will fight hard to protect members' working conditions.

Prof McCormac said: "The review group will approach this challenging piece of work with an open mind.

"We will consider the views of all with an interest in Scottish education and make recommendations as to how future arrangements can be improved to achieve the expected outcomes."

The move was announced in the wake of a report by former chief inspector of education Graham Donaldson, who will serve on the McCormac review, which recommended trainee applicants undergo basic literacy and numeracy tests.

The Donaldson report was commissioned by the government amid concern that incompetent staff are entering the profession.

EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith said Scotland's largest teaching union was "strongly committed" to the McCrone deal, adding: "This agreement has brought a decade of stability, along with enhanced professionalism and collegiality, to our schools."

Mr Smith said the McCormac review faced a "formidable challenge" to deliver on its remit within a short time, while contending with budget cuts which would cause deep damage to the education system.

Labour education spokesman Des McNulty said it appeared Mr Russell had made up his mind to cut teachers' pay and conditions.

"Teachers will rightly see this move as an attack on their conditions of service," said Mr McNulty, adding: "So far, Mr Russell has not indicated when this review will report and he also needs to provide clarity on that."

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Margaret Smith welcomed the McCormac review, but warned: "It is essential this review is driven by what is in the best interests of Scottish education and not as a purely cost cutting exercise."

The Conservatives' Liz Smith also backed the government's move.

"It is a complex matter which needs considered thought by all stakeholders," she said.

The full membership of the McCormac review is:

  • Prof Gerry McCormac - principal, Stirling University
  • Graham Donaldson - former chief inspector, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education
  • Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh - solicitor, businesswoman and actress
  • Isabelle Boyd - head teacher, Cardinal Newman High School, Belshill
  • Sue Bruce - chief executive, Edinburgh City Council
  • Moira McCrossan - former president, EIS
  • Alf Young - journalist and economic commentator.

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