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APPENDIX I to the minute of meeting of the Education Committee of 9 June 1998 (Article 7(a) refers)

MINUTE of MEETING of the JOINT CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE (TEACHERS) held in the Town and County Hall, Forfar on Wednesday 27 May 1998 at 3.30 pm.

Present: Authority Representatives

Councillors BRIAN MILNE, Mrs KATHLEEN RITCHIE, Mr JIM ANDERSON (Director of Education) and Mr NEIL LOGUE (Head of Educational Services).

Teachers' Representatives

MR STEVEN CARGILL, Mr JIM FALCONER, Ms DONNA HAYES, Ms ANNE TRUESDALE, Mr BRIAN McHARDY and Mr ARTHUR PRITCHARD.

Apology: An apology for absence was intimated on behalf of LESLEY ANDERSON (SSTA).

1. APPOINTMENT OF CONVENER

It was noted that under Paragraph 4(a) of the Constitution, the Convenership of the Joint Consultative Committee should rotate on an annual basis between the Convener of the Education Committee and a member appointed by those members representing the Trade Unions and Teacher Associations, with the Vice-Convenership rotating on a similar basis. At the previous meeting, it had been agreed that the Convenership should change at the May meeting of the Committee (Article 1 refers).

Accordingly, the Convener of the Education Committee, Councillor Milne assumed the Chair. It was agreed that the Trade Unions and Teacher Associations would notify the Convener and Joint Secretary of the nomination for the Vice-Convership prior to the next meeting.

The Committee also agreed to note that David Drysdale had resigned as one of the representative of the EIS and that he had been replaced by Steven Cargill, Brechin High School.

2. MINUTES

(a) Previous Meeting

There was submitted and approved as a correct record the minute of meeting of the JCC (Teachers) of 11 February 1998.

(b) Central Consultative Committee

There was submitted and noted the minute of meeting of the Central Consultative Committee of 23 February 1998.

3. FORMATION OF EDUCATION DEPARTMENT CONSULTATIVE GROUP

There was submitted a Report by the Director of Education reminding Members that the Education Committee had agreed, at its meeting held on 25 November 1997 (Article 5 refers), that fora known as "Departmental Consultative Groups" be formed within the Council's consultative framework. The Report proposed that a Departmental Consultative Group be formed specifically to provide an appropriate forum for consultation with non-teaching (education) staff about relevant issues. However, the Report indicated that, following a meeting with the four teachers unions, it had been agreed that they be not represented on this Group, but that the matter be kept under review by both the Group itself and the JCC (Teachers). A copy of the draft Constitution of the Group was appended to the Report.

Brian McHardy agreed that teachers unions be not represented on this Group but welcomed the opportunity for the position to be reviewed in the future.

He asked for clarification of a number of points in the constitution and suggested some minor amendments to the wording. He also requested that the agenda and minutes of the Group be submitted to this Committee for information, and that the title "Education Department Consultative Group (Non-Teaching Staff)" be reconsidered given that teacher representatives might attend in future.

The Committee agreed to note:-

(i) that an Education Department Consultative Group (Non-Teaching Staff) was being formed;

(ii) that the opportunity to review the Constitution of this Group with a view to including representatives of teachers' trade unions should be available to the JCC (Teachers) at any time;

(iii) that comments recorded above be reported to the first meeting of the Group which was due to be held on 11 June 1998; and

(iv) that a further Report be submitted to the next meeting of this Committee.

4. ANGUS COUNCIL - DEVELOPMENT PLANNING

Arthur Pritchard expressed concern regarding the number of initiatives from SOEID and, in particular, difficulties experienced in the use of supply staff to cover for teachers required to attend courses on the initiatives. He asked if it would be possible for the education authority to establish priorities regarding attendance at courses within the Council's Development Plan and re-examine the balance of courses where supply cover was, or was not, available.

He also suggested that schools be allowed greater flexibility in terms of in-service courses in line with their own development plans. He suggested that a Sub-Group could be formed to discuss the way forward on this matter.

Councillor Ritchie supported Mr Pritchard's concerns regarding the number of SOEID initiatives and advised that, following a request from Angus Council, an announcement from the Scottish Office had indicated the Minister’s intention to meet personally with teachers across Scotland in this regard.

Neil Logue indicated that the Educational Developments Advisory Group was also concerned about the number of initiatives and the effect this had on the levels of supply cover needed. He suggested that the number of courses at which attendance is expected required scrutiny.

Having heard Jim Anderson, the Committee agreed that informal discussions with Teacher representatives should be held to establish the problems arising from the number of SOEID initiatives and to work towards achieving a solution.

5. SALARY PAYMENT DATES

There was submitted the second draft of a Report by the Director of Education seeking comments on a proposal that the current pattern of payment dates for teachers' salaries be changed. The Report set out the disadvantages of the current system and recommended that the monthly payment date for teachers' salaries be amended to be the last week day of each month.

Brian McHardy welcomed the invitation to comment on the Report. He outlined the practical difficulties teachers would face in making changes to their financial arrangements and wondered if any other alternatives to that proposed might be considered. Councillor Milne stressed that the change would provide additional money which could be of benefit in meeting any future financial restrictions imposed on the Council's education budget.

Following discussion, it was agreed that the teachers' representatives should submit a response to the Director of Education on the second draft of his Report by September 1998.

6. ASSAULTS ON TEACHERS

There was submitted a Report by the Director of Education relating to 13 incidents involving violence and/or aggression to staff which had occurred during the period from January 1998 to May 1998.

Having heard details from Jim Anderson, the Committee agreed to note the nature of the incidents and in particular the increase in those cases where parents were involved.

7. IN-SERVICE CLOSURE DAYS

With reference to Article 9 of the minute of meeting of the Education Committee held on 10 March 1998, there was submitted Report No 274/98 by the Director of Education setting out the in-service closure days for school pupils in 1998/99 and proposing consultation with parents and staff about in-service closure days in 1999/2000 and beyond with a report back to the Education Committee on the outcome of the consultation as soon as possible.

Arthur Pritchard advised that this matter had not, as yet, been discussed at a general meeting of the EIS but that teachers appeared to be happy with the current position on the in-service days for 1998/99. However, some concern had been expressed regarding the proposals for future years to link the closure of schools on election days with in-service days. This most affected small rural schools where the demands of the use of the school for elections were incompatible with use for in-service training. Teachers were also concerned about the possible demands on advisers if all schools were used on the same day.

In response to a question from Donna Hays on the responsibility of staff on days when schools were closed for elections, Jim Anderson advised that staff were expected turn up for duty whether or not pupils were in attendance.

Councillor Ritchie gave assurance that, where possible, elections were not held in schools and that Town Halls, etc were being increasingly used as polling places.

The Committee agreed:-

(i) that the in-service closure days for school pupils in 1998/99 be noted;

(ii) that the timescale for response to this issue be extended to enable the teacher representatives to submit comments on the proposals in Report No 274/98 for 1999/2000 and beyond by the end of the current school session; and

(iii) that it note the Director’s intention to prepare a Report for submission to the Council's Education Committee, on 25 August 1998 if at all possible.

8. SCHOOL HOURS

With reference to the minute of meeting of the Education Committee of 10 March 1998 (Article 10 refers), there was submitted Report No 279/98 by the Director of Education proposing consultation on recommended hours of school attendance for pupils.

The Report advised of the current school hours observed by primary and secondary schools in Angus; set out issues which required to be addressed (including differentials in school starting and closing times, half-day attendance, length of lunch break and nursery hours); proposed minor amendments to current hours of attendance for pupils; and recommended that a consultation exercise be carried out on the proposals.

In this connection, there was tabled a draft paper setting out the results of the parental consultation on school hours in primary schools.

Arthur Pritchard asked for an opportunity to consider the results of the tabled paper on the parental consultation on school hours and that the Director defer any proposals until full discussion with teachers’ representatives had taken place. He pointed out that schools had already consulted widely in setting school hours and that longer lunchtimes would present difficulties with supervision and could also result in increasing levels of indiscipline. In general a degree of flexibility to meet individual schools’ circumstances should be retained. He further indicated that there must be a clear learning and teaching rationale for changing the hours of P1 pupils. However, he considered that there should be a degree of flexibility in opening and closing times to meet the needs of individual schools.

The Committee agreed:-

(i) to note that further informal representations from teachers’ representatives to the Director of Education may be made; and

(ii) to note that the Director of Education should submit a further Report to the Education Committee on 9 June 1998.

9. STANDARDS IN SCHOOLS

Brian McHardy referred to a recent letter issued by the Director of Education to secondary Head Teachers on the SOEID target setting initiative enclosing possible sets of "final targets" for each school.

He indicated that he supported the concerns expressed in the letter by the Director of Education regarding the approach to target setting being adopted by SOEID. He intimated that the timescale for consultation and implementation was extremely short giving no opportunity for genuine consultation with staff and School Boards. He set out a number of particular concerns as follows:-

(a) the targets set might not meet those already set by the HMI;

(b) the use of notional free meals entitlement as a single indicator for 5-14 targets was flawed;

(c) there was no definition of the "exceptional circumstances" which would allow schools to change their targets;

(d) there was a need for further consultation with teaching staff which could cause further delays in implementation;

(e) this was yet another initiative to be added to school two year Development Plans, which were currently half way through completion;

(f) given that the HMI Audit Unit was currently investigating 5-14 targets, full implementation of the proposals (specifically as they relate to national testing) could be in breach of national and local agreements;

(g) there were insufficient details of funding of the programme available;

(h) the EIS was currently considering legal and practical implications of withholding co-operation with regard to implementing targets.

Jim Anderson endorsed most of the points made by Mr McHardy and indicated that the proposed final targets would be reported to the next Education Committee meeting on 9 June 1998. However, Head Teachers should not feel constrained by the restricted flexibility offered initially by the SOEID and that it was possible to make a case for variation of targets for individual schools. He advised that the Report being submitted to the next meeting of the Education Committee would propose that in order to remain within the spirit of the exercise, the Council should support the raising of standards and use, in part, of target setting to achieve this. His Report would also propose alternative targets to those set by SOEID in certain schools where this was appropriate.

Brian McHardy expressed concern that the introduction of national targets would create a measurement driven culture which could result in the removal of pupils who would adversely affect those targets.

The Committee agreed to note the concerns expressed by the teachers’ representatives.

10. NATIONAL TESTING

Anne Truesdale congratulated Angus Council on adhering to the policy adopted by Tayside Regional Council with respect to national testing for 5-14s and welcomed in particular the flexibility afforded to teachers to decide when and whether to use national tests. Jim Anderson welcomed the comments and recognised that national tests were one of a variety of instruments which could helpfully be used to assess pupils

The Committee agreed to note the teachers’ representatives’ views on Angus Council's policy on national testing.

11. HIGHER STILL

With reference to Article 13 of the minute of previous meeting, Steven Cargill expressed concern at the continuing lack of consultation on Higher Still, and in particular the quality of information in certain subject areas. The change in venues for training from Aberdeen to Fife had proved unsatisfactory given that the Fife venues were less accessible for teachers in Angus. The opportunity to attend alternative seminars had not been communicated to the teachers involved. He stressed that presentations were not acceptable consultative mechanisms and that not enough information was being given to principal teachers to disseminate. Teachers who had attended the seminars had expressed particular concern at proposals for bi-level teaching which involved different courses being taught within the classroom at the same time. This had led to the need for a common course resulting in a lack of diversity. There were also serious concerns regarding staffing implications as shown by the large number of EIS conference motions on Higher Still and the recent SSTA ballot.

Neil Logue advised that the Higher Still Strategy Group would continue to maintain ongoing discussions on the programme. He had issued a letter to Head Teachers advising of the financial allocation towards the programme which amounted to approximately £25,000 for support materials in the current financial year and a further £34,000 for other support. Following a recent meeting of the Higher Still Strategy Group, he had expressed disappointment to Philip Banks, HM Chief Inspector for Schools, about the lack of local venues for training. Those who had attended the training sessions would be reimbursed in line with Council policy.

Brian McHardy indicated that, although teachers always had different ability levels in the classroom, teaching different courses within the same group could cause difficulty. He also expressed concern about lack of communication in that some Departments were not made adequately aware of the Higher Still programme.

Neil Logue responded that this problem would be addressed by two in-service training days in November on Higher Still and that a staff tutor would be appointed for 1998/99. However, he stressed that schools had not been expected to view Higher Still as a priority in 1997/98.

Having heard Councillor Ritchie on the need for effective communication between all parties, the Committee agreed:-

(i) to note the teachers’ comments on Higher Still; and

(ii) to consider the matter of effective communication at the next meeting of this Committee.

12. PROVISION FOR PUPILS WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

With reference to the minute of meeting of the Education Committee of 28 April 1998 (Article 7 refers), there was submitted Report No 421/98 by the Director of Education setting out the background to the various issues to be addressed in relation to special educational needs provision in Angus. The Report sought approval for the establishment of specialist facilities in two additional schools, and the support, in principle, for continuing efforts to rationalise existing provision.

Having heard Arthur Pritchard welcome the Report, the Committee agreed to note the terms of Report No 421/98 for its interest.