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A far-reaching reform in secondary school education was given the green light yesterday, after two days of negotiations between the Teachers' Union and the Education Ministry came to a successful conclusion.

Under the agreement, which has yet to be signed by the parties, secondary school teachers will receive a 53 percent pay rise and have their jobs expanded to full-time, at 40 hours a week. The reform also allows for promotion tracks and differential remuneration, which will give the teachers a further pay rise. The reform will begin in the next school year and will take up to three years to implement, costing NIS 4 billion and a one-off investment of NIS 1 billion for renovating school buildings.

An agreement in principle was already signed by the union, the treasury and the Education Ministry in December, prompting intensive negotiations that culminated in a two-day marathon this week. "Some minor points still need to be fleshed out, but the negotiations have gone past the point of no return," an Education Ministry source told Haaretz. "Barring last-minute surprises, the agreement will be signed in the next few days. The reform significantly improves the teachers' pay but also requires them to work more."

Another source close to the negotiations said that apart from the salary issue, having the teachers at school for 40 hours a week will create "a whole different kind of interaction and atmosphere for the students."

Details of the upcoming agreement were published in Haaretz some months ago, but negotiations since have solved several issues, including a list of duties teachers carry out in schools beyond actually teaching in classrooms, including "subject coordinator," "grade coordinator," "evaluation administrator" and more. These roles will now earn teachers "credit points," which will allow for a further pay rise, up to 30 percent more, in addition to the 53 percent pay rise to all teachers. This will not come at the expense of benefits teachers already receive for additional work, such as having to teach fewer hours.

The average salary of a secondary school teacher with a bachelor's degree and 20 years' experience is currently NIS 7,200. The pay rise is expected to bring it up to nearly NIS 11,000.

Some of the discussions this week centered on how to implement the reform. The treasury sought to make the reform gradual, with only 150 to 200 schools implementing it every year, similar to the earlier "New Horizon" reform. At the end of the talks, it was decided to begin wide implementation in September, but divide it into four steps: On September 1, teachers will receive a 21 percent pay rise for an extra six hours of work, and the next three steps will together bring this figure up to a 53 percent pay rise and 10 more hours of work.

Fifty schools in which 85 percent of teachers will agree to the new working conditions will undergo the full reform at once, to allow the parties to test the effects of the reform early on.