McCormac review: am I missing something?

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.



12 thoughts on “McCormac review: am I missing something?

  1. Pingback: Metaphor Miracles

  2. “This move paves the way for teachers being required to help children with additional support needs”

    As opposed to the current position, which is what exactly? Break it to me gently……

    • “We’re teachers, not social workers” sound familiar?! You and I could paper a classroom with shocking tales of children being excluded or going unsupported with social care and practical learning support from teachers who see it as beneath them and not part of their contracts. Ensuring that this is part of their contracts will make such a difference to many in mainstream schools. Of course, it also requires a cultural shift, that this is a legitimate part of teaching, and also the right training so that they know what to do. The winds of change are blowing….

      And enough of your late night sarcasm, thank you!!

  3. “And as regards retirement is it my fault the private sector accept their current retirement setup?” Take it this is standard line? No, its not public sector fault. But just as you dont care about private sector, why should my kids care about paying your pension?

    • As stated previously your kids are not paying for it as I pay just under 10% of my gross salary every month into it. …. as you can do in a private investment. So lets not get all ’emotional’ about it and try and think clearly about it … objectively. If a teacher pays in £300 per month over a year that equates to £3400 per year …mumltiply that by 40 years equates to over £130,000 invested. Also add in the local authority payments and government payments as they do in the private sector and as you will roughly work out a teacher can have approx £450, 000 set aside. Now bear in mind the average life expectancy of a teacher after retirement is 7 years … then I think you’ll see the state does very well out it. So please lets not have the histrionics and research what yo are talking about please 🙂

    • “And as regards retirement is it my fault the private sector accept their current retirement setup? If you want to retire early then invest in a private pension. After all you have the same ability to do that as I do.”

      Remember you can do the same as teachers do …if you want. So I PAY for my pension ….noone including your kids give it to me !!!

      “Look into your own conditions and seek betterment of them as likely you, like us, are being continually attacked financially and conditionally.”

      Your unfortunately ‘buying’ into the propaganda that the government want you to do. Focussing on others rather than yourself.

      We provide an excellent service for children under extremely difficult circumstances with budgets etc ….. If teachers were to stick to their contracted 35 hours per week nothing would get done. So maybe rather than attack teachers why not thank them for the huge amount of hours they put into the job and get no thanks or payment for it. People are just so quick to criticise rather than support what people are trying to do to better their kids futures and give them a start on their lifelong learning journey. But hey …we’re just greedy pigs arent we !!!!!!

  4. Hi Doug, I also went out with a teacher at the top of their grade on I seem to recall £35,000, not bad for working 5 hours a day with 13weeks holidays. I’ve no quibble about the dedicated ones who give more than their contracted hours, what about all those who are out the playground as quick as the kids? If educational standards are poor let us have the kids in school longer hours. Teachers seem to be a well rewarded group who don’t seem to live in the real world, and (like bankers) don’t think cuts apply to them.

    Yes I can see the advantages of working from home for those who don’t have a job which involves face-to-face with people! On that, I also have a care worker friend who is paid £14,000 for 38hours spread over 6 days, not paid travel time or petrol, and only 21days leave. Care organisations (like Quarriers) are trying to cut care workers pay to compensate for uk government cuts.

    • “£35,000, not bad for working 5 hours a day with 13weeks holidays.”

      5 hours a day? You ruin your argument when you start throwing around exaggerated statistics like that. The school day is what, 8:30am to 3:15pm at least? A teacher can hardly walk into class just as the bell rings, nor walk out as soon as it goes, so really you’re talking about 8am to 3:30pm. Even with an hour’s lunch break, that’s 6 and a half hours, and I’ve had (well paid) private sector jobs that are just 7 hours per day (I think 7 hours should be the maximum hours allowed actually, but that’s another story).

      Besides, your pay is based on far more than your working hours and holidays – do you think anyone can walk off the street and be a teacher with minimal training? Is that the sort of person you would want teaching your kids? Or do you want someone who has proper qualifications and training?

      “I’ve no quibble about the dedicated ones who give more than their contracted hours, what about all those who are out the playground as quick as the kids?”

      So the dedicated ones lose out because of the bad teachers? Surely you sort out the bad ones, rather than punishing everyone?

  5. PS …. sorry meant to add …….. as you will be aware those in the public sector are already taking a pay freeze. And as regards retirement is it my fault the private sector accept their current retirement setup? If you want to retire early then invest in a private pension. After all you have the same ability to do that as I do. Mine just happens to goto the Scottish Public Pensions Agency. I dont get handed retirement and a wedge of cash I pay something like 9% of my salary every month into it. Therefore noone is giving me anything .,… I pay for it and you too can pay for it should you choose from your salary into a private pension plan. So please dont put generalisations and prejudices onto teachers. My salary is generous!!!!! …. emmmm well I personally sacrificed 6 years earning power to train as a teacher (4 year honours degree, one year postgraduate diploma and one year probation) … therefore for 6 years hard study you think £34k is generous!!!!!!. Bearing in mind those with similar or lesser qualifications earn more!!!!!!!!!!. And dont buy into the Private Sector versus Public Sector debate the government wants you to do … because you are only being duped. Look into your own conditions and seek betterment of them as likely you, like us, are being continually attacked financially and conditionally. If people stuck together and thought a bit more then maybe all of us would get on better and all have decent ‘packages’. But this ‘deflection’ by government using their propaganda just takes peoples views of the ball entirely. They like the fact your focusing on us as you are not by default focussing on yourself. Classic Machiavellian politics !!!!

  6. May I add that this review will have a very serious impact on Scottish children if implemented. As for teachers slipping off to Starbucks thats just absurd and frankly ludicrous. We are professionals and as such the vast majority behave as such. And also it should be noted that teachers on average work around 45 hours a week … which by default means we work 10 hours a week extra for no additional payment. Also bear in mind school trips where we stay away from our families for the benefit of other peoples children and dont get paid for that either. Also when it comes to teaching we have insuffficient time to prepare, mark and complete the MANY administrative tasks from interim reporting to full reports to reports on children for various agencies, course development etc etc …all to be done in around 10 hours a week. Bear in mind the implementation of CfE … that is not an ‘off the shelf’ course therefore has to be developed from the ground up …. and where do we get the time for that?????. I think personally those that ‘teacher bash’ should frankly get themselves into a school and see the behaviour we have to tolerate, the work we have to do, the thankless nature of our job as this review suggests etc and see where you find yourself then. If maybe the public supported the job we do we may get on a bit better. Bear in mind McCormac wants to now add to our workload admin duties (where we are already overloaded with paperwork) as well as deal with our time in monthly blocks rather than weekly. So when your children come home and have no homework or it is not marked and sufficient comments havent been made to further the childs progress then please remember that we are just overpaid and in Starbucks !!!!!!!

  7. Oh Kate, I agree with most of your points and suggest you duck before the vested elements leave work at 3pm at bombard you with squeals of protest. Am I the only one who proposes that in exchange for their generous salaries teachers should be employed to be at work 9am-5pm and enjoy the same 4-5 weeks annual leave, and retirement age that the rest of us have? This will allow time for marking, professional development, training, meetings, and other activities they are always claiming not to have time for. It is time for teachers to join the real world including the wage freeze many of us have had for the last 3 years (and more to come).


      I wouldn’t exactly call that “generous” (even though the website itself calls it such!) Respectable, perhaps, but it’s not like teachers are swimming in money, and you can get far more money for far easier jobs in the private sector. I went out with a teacher for a while, and I was surprised when she told me she’d had her last pay rise (since she’d been doing it for 6 years, meaning she’d hit the top of the scale for a normal classroom teacher). I also have a friend who is a teacher, so between the two I’ve witnessed teachers using their spare time to get marking done, lessons planned, projects researched etc.

      Now, they could do all these sort of things in the classroom, but is it necessary? Personally, I’m of the opinion that people should be “in the office” only as long as necessary. We should be working towards getting more people working from home if possible (especially in my area – software development – where there is almost nothing that you need to do in the office which you cannot do from home), and there have been many times in my working life where I have found myself trying to run the clock down in the office, when I could have just gone home instead – thereby using up MY electricity instead of the company’s, and contributing one less commuter to the rush hour traffic.

      All that being said, I must agree with The Burd that I see nothing (from her analysis, at least) in these proposals that warrant the anger from the teaching unions. They seem fairly benign. Still, I do think the idea that a person must be in work from 8:30am to 5pm is a bit old-fashioned.

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