Scottish Education is currently in a state of flux as a resulting from the implementation of new national qualifications and proposed changes to teacher's working conditions. The aforementioned changes are proposed in order to resolve purported issues with the relevance of the current teacher's agreement in .he current economic and educational climate/
This agreement was reached as a result of recommendations made in 'A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century', otherwise known as 'The McCrone report (2000).
In May 2000, the report of the McCrone inquiry into teachers conditions of service was published. The implementation group stated in the report that there was:
"A recognition that this was a unique opportunity to address the question of teachers' esteem, professional autonomy and public accountability in a way which would enhance the capacity of school education to meet the challenges of the 21st century."
This seems to suggest that there was an expectation that the teacher's agreement would provide a long term solution to teacher's pay and conditions and would advance professional autonomy and enhance professionalism. Why then, little over 12 years after its publication is it being reviewed? It seems that policy changes in line with the current political agendas; different government, different policies. Is there no educational rationale behind these changes, is education, and with it, the future of our children simply at the mercy of politicians?
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The McCrone report has been reviewed recently by Graham Donaldson. It is my intention to critically analyse Donaldson's report, the McCormac Review and other relevant documents. I aim to gain insight into key issues therein in relation to the theme of leadership. What are the implications for leadership arising from these documents?
Review of conditions of service
'Teaching Scotland's Future: report of a review of teacher education in Scotland', (2010) written by Graham Donaldson was produced for and published by, the Scottish Government. When undertaking this review, Donaldson consulted key stakeholders: local authorities, teachers, pupils and initial teacher education colleges and universities. There exist, in my opinion, various issues with the report, in the opening sections before we even consider the main body of the report. The first is the number of teacher respondents and the second is the way in which their responses were interpreted.
Firstly, given that there are approximately 670,511 teachers in publically funded schools in Scotland (the Scottish Government website, Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland, No.2, 2011 Edition 7th December, 2011) the responses of nearly 2500 individuals are not necessarily representational of an entire profession.In addition, in collating the responses of these teachers which parts were selected of being as use and which were discarded? Did Donaldson simply 'cherry pick' from responses which fit his criteria?
Whilst a National Partnership Group with representatives from the Scottish Teacher Education Committee (STEC), the Scottish Government and Association of Directors of Education for Scotland (ADES) has been tasked with taking the recommendations forward.
'Advancing Professionalism in Teaching: a report of the review of teacher employment in Scotland' (2011) was written by Professor Gerry McCormac, principal and vice-chancellor of Stirling University. Its publication followed a review of teacher employment in Scotland and it contains a number of recommendations for changes to teacher's pay and practices.
TheÂ McCormac Review examined a range of issues related to teacher employment, including whether theÂ agreement remained beneficial for both teachers and pupils. There was also a focus on whether the report was of the upmost relevance following the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence.
Policy dictated by politicians?
There exists overall, a lack of meaningful critique of a range of policies and the rationale for change. This extends to the Curriculum for Excellence with its new national qualifications is being introduced, the implementation of which requires much closer critical analysis. Many of my colleagues have expressed concern about the implementation process of the new qualifications. Yet there seems to be little opportunity for professional discourse on the subject.
I share the view of Kennedy and Doherty's view in their critical reading of the Donaldson report where they
"conclude with a plea that as the rush to attend to the more tangible, operational aspects of the proposed reform gather momentum, such a panacea approach to solving perceived problems needs to be critiqued openly". (2012,p1)
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The main issue, whether we concentrate solely on leadership within these policy texts, or look at them as a whole is, is anyone really, publicly, critiquing these policies? The recommendations are being implemented within schools, if somewhat inconsistently. But who really dug deep into the policy, examined it and critiqued it in a public forum. There is an urgent need to address this oversight, and soon.
On this topic of leadership Donaldson states that'there is an urgent need to challenge the narrow interpretations of the teacher's role' and that there was a need to utilise the early stages of a teacher's career to 'develop the values, skills and understandings which will provide the basis of career-long growth and in so doing create a broader and deeper leadership pool' (page 16).
This statement stresses the importance of developing leadership skills and qualities from the start of a career, in recognising the potential of a teacher's role and leadership qualities therein. This, in common with many statements/ recommendations made by Donaldson is made with authority and resolution. This appears to be a device commonly used in by both Donaldson and McCormac to suggest that their version of the truth is the only one worth considering.
What are the 'success criteria' for a leader? In being 'professional' are we expected to conform? Is that what professionalism means? Is it not more to do with core values and the pupil at the heart of education? Is there a political agenda in effecting change? How much are statistics involved? Does the rather broad implementation of the new nationals allow teachers to be 'professional'?
Donaldson's first recommendation states simply 'education policy in Scotland should give the highest priority to further strengthening the quality of its teachers and of its educational leadership'. P 87
I am not convinced that the educational policies I have discussed do, in fact, support teachers in terms of improving quality of teaching or leadership. How does the leadership structure at present seek to achieve this aim?
Promotional structure- career progression
Mccormac recommendation 5.10 concedes that 'there is no doubt that the reduction in the number of promoted posts reduces the opportunity for career progression, and may impact upon the efficient operation of schools'. He maintains that 'opportunities must exist for teachers to progress within a well-defined career structure which has an appropriate number and range of promoted posts.'(p )
So McCormac recognises that the this promotional structure reduces opportunities for staff who aspire to become leaders, but what then? He continues in recommendation 5.11, 'with this in mind we recommend that more use is made of the existing principal teacher post.' He goes onâ€¦
"We believe a more imaginative and flexible use of the principal teacher grade could lead to teachers being given the opportunity to lead on discrete areas of work while also contributing to the school's overall responsibilities in terms of mentoring and performance management."
I have not seen the pt1 post used widely within my region. If teachers are to undertake a particular pieces of work, this is undertaken usually as part of a development post, which is sometimes paid, sometimes not, sometimes given allocated non-contact time, and sometimes not. I hold a one year development post, what will happen thereafter is unclear, however I am paid for the additional duties I undertake.
Yet, within my school I have a colleague who has responsibility for another area of whole school development, which requires a huge commitment of extra time, is not provided with either extra time or pay? Is this policy then applied fairly? It seems that in terms of policy texts, as with texts of any kind, one can interpret them in any way we please, to suit our own ends. And if the aspiring leader, as described in this case, were to complain, they would simply be stripped of this responsibility and it will be given to another aspiring leader. What choice does the aspiring leader have in this, when there is no clear structure, policy is open to interpretation and applied inconsistently?