Although the Covid pandemic has overshadowed everything related to Scottish education for the past two years, and remains a very real and live concern, there are many other issues currently impacting on Scotland’s teaching professionals.
The EIS national member survey, carried out late last year, was created to gauge members’ views on the reality of life in the classroom. Over 16,000 members took part in the survey, sharing their views on a wide range of issues including Covid safety in schools, the workload strain on teachers, and the impact of current working environments on health and wellbeing.
As we highlight in our special focus in this edition, the results were stark. Workload levels have soared during the pandemic, as teachers have battled to overcome the damaging impact of the pandemic on young people’s education.
Stress levels are extremely high, with teachers identifying a glaring lack of support in managing stress from their employers. This has worrying implications for the mental and physical wellbeing of staff, and is an issue that must be addressed by local and national government.
Teachers remain concerned about the risks of Covid to themselves, their colleagues, their pupils and their families. The emergence of new variants, seemingly more transmissible and more resistant to the various Covid vaccines, has led to a huge upsurge in case numbers throughout the winter period.
Case numbers in primary schools have been particularly high in recent weeks, as the vast majority of pupils at this stage will not have been vaccinated. Significant outbreaks have occurred in numerous schools across the country, highlighting the need for continuing caution and the retention of key safety mitigations in schools.
In addition to all of these concerns, we are currently facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis across the country. Fuel and energy prices are soaring, high inflation is increasing the price of goods and services, rent and mortgage costs are rising, and the imminent increase to the rate of national insurance will add further pressure onto household budgets.
The EIS, and other unions, have now been pursuing a pay settlement for Scotland’s teachers for more than a year. Progress in negotiations has been glacial – the result of a combination of factors including the impact of the pandemic, the late setting of budgets, and, it has to be said, frequent frustrating delaying tactics from COSLA.
Shortly before this SEJ was published, the EIS Salaries Committee agreed the next pay claim for the year 2022-2023 which will set the union up for a period of significant campaigning on improved pay for Scotland’s teachers and associated professionals. Hopefully, next year’s claim will build on a settlement of the current negotiations.
For all the latest developments, see the EIS website at www.eis.org.uk