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Competition for a higher scale puts managers in a bind

School leaders also find the staff salary system frustrating. The budget is insufficient to meet all promotion wishes, according to the study by the Education magazine into higher salary scales. But it can also be different.

“The budget is insufficient. Having to disappoint people time and time again is horrible and good people walk away.' This response from a team leader sums up the frustration for executives with the procedures for promoting staff. Of the fifteen hundred participants in the study of the Education Magazine according to higher salary scale, about seventy have a managerial position, such as team leader, school leader or (deputy) director, mainly in primary and secondary education.

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Most consider it downright a 'crappy system'. 'I was ashamed that I received LD at the expense of the other person', writes a team leader in secondary education. 'Now I am a manager and see the misery and dilemmas from the other side. Last year also lost at least five disappointed colleagues. Interns who simply get LC elsewhere while they wanted to stay with us, permanent colleagues who angrily watch as young chemists and mathematicians immediately enter LC or LD (…) Rejected teachers feel undervalued and passed over when vacancies are filled with the coveted LC or LD -dish. But what else can you do? The vacancies have to be filled and the desks are also priceless.'


“The whole procedure leads to nothing but rottenness and misery in the school,” sighs Theo Schopmeijer, school leader at Stad College in Almere. Last year, the board made four LC positions available for this location. With a portfolio full of evidence showing that they work at the established level, teachers could apply to a specially established committee. Of the two teachers who didn't make it, one has since been sick at home and the other has since left school. Schopmeijer: “An extra sour is that due to the shortage, new teachers are entering directly into LC or LD or receive a royal salary via secondment. It really cannot be explained to sitting colleagues.”

Theo Schopmeijer, head of the Stad College in Almere: "The whole procedure leads to nothing but rottenness and misery."

According to many school leaders, the budget cannot be changed: after all, the money can only be spent once and reducing the workload through smaller classes is also a priority. Moreover, a higher salary is not the solution, thinks Schopmeijer. “Our VMBO school is located in an area where teachers receive a higher salary because of the challenging student population. But we really don't bring extra teachers with us. In addition, the salaries are certainly not bad, so that is not the point at all. The solution lies in making the profession more attractive.”


It is not possible to pay everyone in LC or LD, but you can set clear criteria so that everyone can have a turn. That is what the Altena Colleague in Sleeuwijk does. The rules are simple: first-degree teachers who structurally teach more than half of their time in an examination subject in the upper years of havo and/or vwo, will in principle be placed in LD. All teachers come standard in LC from the age of 48. Earlier is also possible, depending on the age, the number of years of service in education and at the school itself. Rector Gijsbert van der Beek has a long list of times when it is people's turn based on those criteria. “When the time comes, we do a substantive test. What comes out of that can never be a surprise, because it concerns the same elements as those that are discussed in a performance review. We call this the barrier. A few who do not get through, receive time and guidance to improve their functioning.”

'The fact that everyone automatically qualifies for the higher scale gives a lot of peace in school'

And this works fine, notes Van der Beek, who has been using these criteria since the introduction of the job mix in 2008. “Everyone knows where they stand and automatically qualifies for that higher scale. That gives a lot of peace in school and is not at the expense of people's urge to innovate or develop.”
Because the fear is that such criteria will nullify the ambition. “But that is already the case,” Schopmeijer responds. “There is no incentive whatsoever for further training because there is no higher remuneration in return. The tricky thing is that once teachers are in that higher scale, the sacred fire sometimes goes out. When they then sit back and leave the tedious work to the young guard, the resources are limited to get them 'on' again. And demotion is complicated.”

'You can't take away a given scale'

That is something that managers indicate more often in the survey: 'You cannot take away a given scale. That should be easier, but then as a school leader you now find a union on the road.' Schopmeijer: “I built up a file a number of times, but the board didn't dare to do it. A lawsuit will cost them even more money.”
That school leaders are paid the same as an LD teacher then feels very unjust. “If I compare my tasks and responsibilities with a teacher who gives a maximum of 25 lessons and leaves early, I see some lopsided growth,” says Schopmeijer. A participant in the study also touches on this point: 'End of scale means end of progress. I miss career opportunities or extra remuneration for school leaders.'


Rector Van der Beek has never believed that a portfolio with qualification requirements for a higher scale encourages people to develop. “In the beginning that was seen as bliss, as good for the quality, but I see schools coming back from that. I believe in solidarity, connection and involvement: doing your best together to make the best of the school. And the few who cut corners, I address them. Fortunately, there are very few, because you just can't afford to stay on the sidelines.”

The Altena Colleague in Sleeuwijk has simple rules for those who are eligible at a certain point to make the step to salary scale LC or LD. “Everyone knows where they stand,” says rector Gijsbert van der Beek.

The ratio of teachers in scales LB, LC and LD is around 140 percent for each of the functions at the Altena Collega, a school community with 33 staff members. He realizes that he is lucky with 'his' rural school in a quiet area in North Brabant, without a shortage of teachers and with a stable number of pupils. “But we are also known as a school where life is good and that also has to do with how you organize things.”

For example, they do not work with a task policy in clock hours, but in lesson units. Mentors in the first year, for example, teach two lessons less. “This prevents people from calculating clock hours and getting the feeling that their hours are not enough, which leads to a lot of dissatisfaction.”
It all sounds like music to Schopmeijer's ears, but at 'his' VMBO school in Almere the situation is completely different. “I used to take my family to nice places during holidays in preparation for the school camp, and meeting in the evening was just normal. Of course I understand that things are different now. Teachers experience an enormous workload, which means that even creating their own teaching materials or organizing a fun class evening falls short. But that makes the school very boring and of course it does not benefit the quality. I really want this to be different, but because of the teacher shortage I can be happy if I get someone to teach at all.”


Van der Beek is convinced that what Altena College is doing is also feasible for other schools. “As a single-person outside the Randstad, we even receive much less resources, so community schools and schools in the Randstad must also be able to do this. There are many knobs you can turn: the maximum lesson task, number of students in the class and the overall organization. That last one is a big button. The more layers, the more consultation and the more money leaks. Keep the structure simple, the organization flat and keep the focus on good education.”

'There are a lot of knobs you can turn'

He doesn't think it's a good idea to lay down such a thing in regulations. “It can all be less. Trade unions would like to agree on a maximum lesson task, group size or surcharge factor, but that is really madness. It seems like you're protecting people, but you're forcing them into an armor of distrust. The collective labor agreement hardly comes out of our bag. Everyone gets what they are entitled to and where we can do it more conveniently and smarter than stated in the collective labor agreement, we will. It can really be different, but for that you must all dare to take new steps. Gaining trust starts with giving trust.”
“These kinds of good examples show that it is possible, but they are an exception,” says AObdirector Jelmer Evers. “Many employers are unable to do this and that requires additional agreements. I also understand the message from school leaders that they are caught between the wishes of staff and the budget. The mix of functions is frustrating for everyone and that really needs to change. In short, teachers can only be promoted if they take on additional tasks. We believe that teaching and developing education should be better valued. To be able to finance this, we have to work together with the employers to convince politicians.”

This article originated from 'Making Together', a project in which the Education magazine involves readers more in the making of stories. Higher salary scale was the first subject of research. Read all articles and tips to scale up aob.nl/scaleup

The editors have now started a new Making Together project about autonomy. Help us and let us know how much freedom you experience in your work on: aob.nl/autonomy



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