SEVENTEEN years ago a major report into the salaries and working conditions of teachers made an important statement on the erratic nature of pay negotiations.

The 2000 Teaching Profession for the 21st Century review said increases in the previous quarter century had come in “fits and starts” with a series of small rises followed by a major upward revision.

The review, chaired by Professor Gavin McCrone, concluded the pattern was “unsatisfactory and liable to lead to discontent” and called for a new system that would ensure “more orderly progression”.

It is somewhat ironic that nearly two decades after the committee’s findings the same discussions are now taking place over the slide in the value of teachers’ salaries and the need for yet another major review.

Following the McCrone Committee report the former Labour-Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive sanctioned a 23 per cent pay increase for teachers at a cost of more than two billion.

But rather than usher in a new era of sustained support for the profession the latest OECD report indicates that Scottish teacher salaries are now worth at least six per cent less than they were in 2005.

To be fair, Mr McCrone’s committee could not have been expected to anticipate the global economic crash of 2007 and the subsequent austerity-inspired squeeze on public funds and public sector pay.

And the tri-partite Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee set up to handle pay discussions with unions, councils and the Scottish Government is still seen as having value.

But the public perception that teachers are overworked and undervalued is once again common currency and it would seem logical to assume this is at least one part of the reason why schools are having such trouble filling vacancies.

A survey by The Herald has already shown there were 700 teacher vacancies in August with particular difficulties in science subjects where graduates have alternative career options to pursue that are more lucrative than teaching.

It is also worth revisiting the 2000 McCrone review to see the similarities with today’s climate of concern over bureaucracy, the frequency of government initiatives and resulting stress.

“Teachers feel that the number and nature of recent policy initiatives by the government have substantially increased the burden upon them,” it said.

“Teachers also feel the amount of bureaucracy involved in teaching more generally has grown beyond reasonable proportions, and question whether all of it really adds value.

“The situation appears to be having a profoundly negative effect on teachers’ morale and well-being. Some older teachers say that they would like to leave the profession.”

Thus far the Scottish Government’s approach to teacher shortages has been to look at more flexible training routes into the profession and advertising campaigns targeted at particular graduates.

It is looking increasingly likely any long-term solution will also have to consider pay.