Politicians must Stand Up for Scottish Education

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An important year ahead

As we move ever close to a general election, this year will be an important one for Scottish education and for public services across the country. After a long period of enforced austerity, cuts to the public sector and tight restrictions on public-sector pay, the forthcoming election will present voters with the opportunity to re-set policy on government support for public services.

Although education is a devolved matter, the general election will have huge significance for teaching professionals in Scotland. The level of investment in public services elsewhere in the UK has a direct impact on the amount available, through Barnett consequentials, for the delivery of services in Scotland.

The EIS will be highlighting the need for greater investment in education in the run-up to the general election, which appears likely to be held in the later part of the year. We will be challenging all political parties to nail their colours to the mast, and to make firm commitments to supporting greater investment in education during the next parliamentary term.

Our ongoing campaign, Stand Up for Quality Education, continues to build momentum as it highlights the key challenges facing Scotland’s schools around pupil violence and intimidation, the under-resourcing of ASN provision, and the unmanageable workload demands placed on teachers.

As we report in this edition of the SEJ, work in other areas related to the campaign, also continues. The EIS recently held a very well-attended event focusing on teacher health and wellbeing, which offered delegates the opportunity to share experiences and discuss steps to be taken to manage work/life balance and preserve their physical and mental health.

The EIS has also been active in supporting TUC activity around protecting the right to strike for public sector workers. The UK already has some of the most restrictive anti-trade union laws in Europe, but the UK government is pushing ahead with its plans to further restrict the ability of unions to take industrial action.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government has pledged that anti-trade union legislation will not be applied against public sector workers. This commitment is clearly welcome, and the EIS and our sister unions will continue to watch closely to ensure that this pledge stands up in practice.

As we indicated in the previous edition of the SEJ, and as we report on in this edition, the issue of pay also remains on the agenda. With the last element of the previous pay agreement now applied to teachers’ salaries from 1 January, we have now entered into the negotiation phase for the 2024-2025 pay settlement, which is due to be in place by the beginning of August.

Following more than a decade of difficult pay negotiations and pay restraint, the EIS has challenged COSLA and the Scottish Government to play fair and to negotiate in good faith, and in a timely fashion, to ensure that teachers actually receive their pay settlement on time this year.

The protracted process that led to the last agreement was necessitated by a prolonged period of foot-dragging from the other sides of the SNCT, and this cannot be allowed to happen again. No-one wants a repeat of the lengthy dispute and the move to industrial action that was necessary to secure a reasonable pay settlement last time around.

Teachers’ representatives at the SNCT have submitted a very reasonable and measured pay claim, which is supported by a substantial amount of evidence on the need to ensure that teachers are paid appropriately and fairly for their work. That claim now sits with the employers, and it is down to them to produce a fair offer – in the near future – which will be acceptable to Scotland’s teaching professionals.

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February 2024

Vol 108 / Issue no 01. / February 2024