Am I missing something?
I’ve read the recommendations from the McCormac Review several times and some of the detail in the actual report. I’ve read various responses and some of the media commentary.
So I ask again? Am I missing something?
For I can see nothing that might have prompted the biggest teaching union, the EIS to suggest that the review is a Curate’s Egg and joins the “ranks of the diluters”, nor for one of the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS) members to decry one of the proposals as “professionally inappropriate and potentially illegal”. And is there really any justification for the SSTA to call them “plain silly” and “a waste of taxpayer’s money”? Maybe I just expect too much from a body for whom over-reaction appears to be a way of life.
I am sure there are some nuances in the detail that pass this layperson by. But if that is the case, then be warned unions, for they will pass the average person, and indeed parent, in the street by as well.
So teachers will have to stay in school all day? Some of us will be surprised to learn they can and do leave. What, do they take themselves off to Starbucks when they have no contact time?!
The idea of rolling up all the contact and non-contact time into monthly blocks rather than weekly ones seems fairly sensible to me. That way, teachers can plan to have a whole day of non-contact time or more one presumes, to allow for additional development or taking themselves off on a specialist course or just spending a day scoping out a term module and project, or devoting proper time to marking assignments during the school day. It also allows for a more intensive approach say to a particular project or module, though I do see how this benefits primary teachers more than secondary. In reality, though the opportunity to roll up contact and non-contact time presents itself, realistically, will it happen on a regular basis? Particularly for secondary teachers, many of whom require a daily break from the fray in order to preserve their sanity, and rightly so.
It has been suggested that the removal of some restrictions will result in teachers doing other, non-teaching tasks, such as fixing computers or photocopying. Those of us who work in the real world, meanwhile, who are often called upon to do or help out with tasks that no one would ever have dreamed of putting on our job descriptions, are bemused. I suspect that the real concern about this move is going unspoken because while teachers might whisper it to each other, to say it out loud would shock us. This move paves the way for teachers being required to help children with additional support needs, who might need some physical assistance with social care or other support tasks in order to participate fully in school life.
You can see why teaching unions might not want to be caught voicing opposition to this, even though on a day to day basis, they and their members do. Daily, they are quite happy to allow a child to soil themselves before they’d assist him or her in getting to a toilet. And then call for the parent to come and remove the child for soiling themselves.
The extension of teachers’ responsibilities to provide some of the additional support some children and young people need is a thorny issue indeed, but teachers’ inflexibility in this area has often held back the reality of inclusion for many children. They may be integrated into classrooms but often that does not include getting to play with friends at break, or eat with peers at lunch, or go on school trips like others. Enabling teachers to support such participation will go a long way to addressing some of these challenges.
Moreover, I for one, welcome the fact that at long last, supply teachers, classroom assistants and auxiliaries and the like will now be entitled to professional development. That can only be a good thing for them, for teachers they work alongside, and most importantly, the pupils they support. For many years, the disparity between classroom assistants and teachers in terms and conditions, training, salary and even contracts has become a yawning chasm: closing it is fair and proper, ensuring that some of the lowliest paid people in local authorities who do one of the most important jobs get proper status and potentially qualifications. Teachers might not like it but that isn’t the really the point or the purpose.
The same can be said of the kneejerk opposition to having non-teaching folk in our classrooms imparting their knowledge and skills to young people. I want my child to get the best education and learning experience possible. To have the chance to learn about music or art or literature from a visiting professional, an external expert as the review terms them, excites me. There are risks inherent in the idea that an expert in anything can also teach but the recommendation states plainly that education is “teacher-led” and empowers headteachers to decide to allow the experts to work with a class directly on their own. Do unions not trust headteachers to make the right judgement call?
You can see why organisations established to guard closely its members’ interests would seize upon anything they suspect might threaten those interests. But for too long it has been assumed that what is in teachers’ interests is automatically also in children’s interests. McCormac has drawn a subtle distinction with its review and report. Some of the recommendations need careful thought and application if they are not to undermine both, of course, but as a whole, there is very little in these recommendations that ordinary folk, and importantly, parents might disagree with. Not all change is bad, after all and resisting change for the sake of it, in the current climate, is unlikely to garner many supporters outwith the teaching profession.