Some five years ago after it was approved, the McCrone Agreement on pay and conditions for teachers faces its final test as 2006 approaches. The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association today warned its members that a crucial final stage of the implementation needs to be dealt with in coming weeks.

"For many teachers, the McCrone Agreement may seem as if it is from a previous era, and in terms of pay that is largely true. We are now almost in the third year of the pay agreement which followed the McCrone settlement," said David Eaglesham, General Secretary of the SSTA. "What remains, however, is probably the most difficult aspect of all within the agreement - the so-called "Collegiality" concept. This involves, firstly, the final reduction in class contact for teachers from August 2006, but much more controversially, the potential abandonment of the discretion of individual teachers about how to balance their working week is directed."

At present, teachers have 8 hours of the working week given to them for marking and preparation. Under the system proposed from August 2006 onwards, there would be no "protected time" of this nature. Instead, the only limitation within the 35 hours "working week" will be the limit on class contact. Many teachers fear that the time they can currently devote to marking and preparation for pupils will be swallowed up by "corporate activities" within the school or local authority. This would effectively force teachers to add up to 8 hours to their actual working week which is generally reported at 42-43 hours already. "Abandoning this protected time is something which teachers will only agree to if and when they are completely convinced that the time they currently devote to marking and preparation will not be reduced in any way, but rather increased to allow for better delivery of education to young people.

Previous experience has shown us that ‘corporate activities’ can be expanded almost infinitely to fill any available time. If this is the approach planned for schools, then teachers will refuse to go along with it. The first and most important activity is the teaching and learning process – time must be made available for this before any bureaucratic exercises are contemplated."

The decision on how to proceed beyond August 2006 will be taken in national discussions in the first few months of the year.

Further details from:David Eaglesham

General Secretary 29 December 2005 [/html]