Teachers have rejected a package of reforms involving changes to their terms and conditions, which would have seen concessions balanced by a 2% pay increase over two years, and a resolution to the ongoing crisis over supply teacher pay.
The outcome is not surprising. Although the leadership of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) had endorsed the pay deal, it left teachers to make up their own minds about the other changes being requested by councils.
A backdrop of unrest among the union's membership always made it unlikely they would back the deal offered by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla).
From Cosla's point of view, acceptance by teachers would have redressed some of the long-standing concerns it has over the McCrone agreement, now 12 years old, which shook up the profession and redressed a historic pay deficit.
In particular, councils were looking for changes in the tasks teachers are expected to do, and the hours they are expected to put in, in front of a class.
In both cases, they were looking for more flexibility, for instance, by enabling teachers to put in extra hours of class 'contact time' when there is a demand. A teacher could cover if a colleague is absent, for example, and claim the time back later.
But EIS members feared the changes would see teachers taking on more of the work carried out by support staff or classroom assistants.
It certainly does not seem desirable for teachers to be diverted into doing photocopying or taking on excessive administration work. It is understandable, too, if teachers feel that teaching plans will be disrupted if the time they are spending in the classroom is constantly changing in the name of flexibility.
Yet, there is no doubt local councils face big financial challenges and teachers' salaries are a significant part of their costs.
The real problem is that by bundling all these issues together, Cosla has boxed itself into a corner. Without changes to terms and conditions the whole deal falls, it says, including better rates for supply teachers.
So what can councils do now? Withholding the pay rise on offer to all public-sector workers this year seems unnecessarily antagonistic. There is also a pressing need to address the problems in supply teaching. All sides agree that schools need a ready pool of able, experienced supply teachers in order to function, and measures in this deal would have delivered that.
This is a mess, largely of the councils' making. The attempt to package a number of changes together is understandable, but badly timed.
The McCrone deal may well need revisiting. Professor Gerry McCormac, commissioned to examine the issue by Michael Russell last year, believes that it does, and the education secretary agrees.
But in a year when teachers are under pressure to deliver the first exams under the new Curriculum for Excellence, it is, at the least, an unnecessary distraction. It is the wrong time to be having this battle, and Cosla should solve the supply issue, in particular, before taking it on.
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