The first meeting of EIS Council in 2024 had a broad agenda, with a diverse range of issues discussed throughout the day.

Executive Committee

Past President Andrene Bamford delivered the report of the Executive Committee, in place of Vice-President Allan Crosbie who was unable to attend on the day.

Ms Bamford reported that Executive had held a lengthy discussion on the next phase of the Stand Up for Quality Education campaign, which will place an emphasis on the requirement for enhanced Additional Support Needs (ASN) provision in schools. Ms Bamford told Council that an ASN Resourcing Campaign Briefing has been produced, which will be an invaluable campaign resource for activists and branches as the EIS starts to spotlight ASN in campaigning work. Executive also agreed to work with other stakeholders to draft a joint statement designed to put pressure on government to fund significant increases in ASN provision.

The report also highlighted EIS support for the TUC campaign in opposition to the introduction of Minimum Service Levels, as the Westminster government’s latest piece of anti-trade union legislation. An EIS delegation attended the special TUC congress in December (see article on pp14-15 of this edition), where delegates stressed the importance of collaboration between the TUC and STUC to ensure that the Scottish Government and public sector employers do not enact the anti-strike legislation.

The EIS will raise the issue directly with COSLA and the Scottish Government, which has frequently stated its opposition to the introduction of anti- strike legislation and its commitment that this should not be deployed in Scotland. “The EIS stands fully committed to protecting the right to strike as a fundamental right for our members and for all working people”, said Ms Bamford.

Following the conclusion of the day’s meeting of Council, an EIS delegation departed to join the march in Cheltenham in opposition to the introduction of this anti-strike legislation at UK level.

Ms Bamford also commended EIS-FELA members for delivering a decisive vote for industrial action in their recent national statutory ballot. The long-running campaign for fair pay and protection of jobs and provision in the FE sector continues, with members now having waited for almost a year and a half without a fair pay offer from college employers. See feature on pp16-17 for more on the FE dispute.

Education Committee

Convener Susan Quinn reported that a continued wide range of issues were being worked on – although little recent progress has been made in many areas, due to the pause put in place by the Cabinet Secretary for Education.

The committee heard updates on the proposed introduction of the Centre for Teacher Excellence (CfTE), announced by the Cabinet Secretary last year. Discussion centred around EIS concerns related to the establishment of the CfTE, and a response to the proposal was agreed.

On the Strategic Board for Teacher Education (SBTE), an update was provided on the three workstreams of workforce planning and increasing diversity in the profession, improving the promotion of teaching as a valued career, and the continuum of teacher education. Ms Quinn said that the overall lack of diversity within the profession continues to be a concern, and the EIS would continue to push on this. The workstream on promoting teaching as a career continues to be difficult, given the many challenges facing the profession, said Ms Quinn.

On the GTCS, Ms Quinn said, “I would want to highlight that elections to the GTCS are now open, and I would urge everyone in the room and all EIS members to use their vote. Turnout in these elections is traditionally very low, but it is important that teachers have their say in who represents them on the GTCS.”

On other GTCS issues, Ms Quinn reported that there continues to be very slow progress on professional registration for Instrumental Music Teachers – a long standing issue which has been under discussion for many years. There is, however, some progress on registration for FE lecturers, said Ms Quinn.

With regard to the SQA, the committee discussed a number of issues including EIS concerns around double presentations and how this issue can be addressed, and the separate issue of the growing threat of AI to the integrity of the qualifications system.

Employment Relations Committee

On Benevolent matters, Convener Susan Slater told Council that the committee had considered 31 applications for assistance and 29 grants were awarded totalling £87,000.

Following discussion, the committee had agreed to amend the trust deeds to allow probationer teacher members to apply for assistance. As probationers normally do not qualify for sick pay, they can face severe hardship if they become ill. “Information will be going out to LAs advising of this change”, said Ms Slater.

Heather Hughes (West Lothian) said that she was very much in favour of eligibility for the comfort grant being extended to probationers, but highlighted that probationer members may also be members of other unions (during an initial period of free membership) and this would need to be taken into account in the process for awarding grants.

Equality Committee

Convener Nicola Fisher, battling a badly strained voice, updated Council on a wide range of issues within the purview of the Equality Committee.

On disability matters, Ms Fisher reported that the STUC Disabled Workers’ Conference had taken place in December, and the EIS delegation had put forward two motions, which passed unopposed, and seconded a motion from UNISON on British Sign Language. EIS member Julie Ferguson hosted a workshop on reasonable adjustments at the conference, and an STUC survey on this issue is currently open for submissions.

Moving onto LGBT matters, the committee had noted a draft report on the findings of the EIS survey on LGBT discrimination. Some further work will be undertaken on the report and, once this is complete, the final report will go before the LGBT sub-committee for consideration as to how to raise awareness of the issues identified by the survey.

Ms Fisher highlighted that the Guidance Note on Inclusive Education from the Scottish Government was now with COSLA for consideration, but there was currently silence on the issue of parental withdrawal of children and young people from LGBT education. The committee had stressed the importance of schools receiving practical advice and meaningful support from the Scottish Government through this guidance on the issue of withdrawal, and agreed that this matter should be raised directly with the Scottish Government.

On anti-racist issues, Ms Fisher noted that the St Andrew’s Day March against racism, which took place in late November, had included a strong turnout from EIS members across a number of local associations and the Self-Governing Associations.

Salaries Committee

Convener Des Morris reported to Council that, when Salaries had met in December, there was lengthy discussion around whether to agree a pay claim (as scheduled) that day, or to delay until inflation figures were available for December and January. The committee had agreed to wait until January, and hold a special salaries meeting, to set the pay claim so that the most up-to-date information on inflation could be considered. BoE projections still state that the Bank’s inflation target of 2% is unlikely to be met until 2025.

Mr Morris told Council that current rates of inflation were carefully considered by Salaries Committee at its January special meeting in agreeing the 2024-2025 pay claim of 6.5% which was submitted via the SNCT later in January.

Mr Morris added, “The pay claim sits above both rates of inflation (CPI and RPI) to signal our continuing intent to rebuild teacher pay to the levels established in the TP21 agreement. In coming to our claim, we considered a wide range of factors including the need to present a claim that would be both reasonable and achievable, with the intention that an agreement can be achieved on time for the scheduled settlement date of 1 August.”

David Farmer (Fife) had submitted a written question to the Convener, asking what steps were being taken to further advise members on reclaiming any overpayment of tax on the 2023 salary settlement.

Responding, Mr Morris indicated that the EIS website already includes an article on this issue, accompanied by examples of how overpaid tax impacts on members. This also includes a link to the HMRC website to allow members, who wish to apply, to do so via the HMRC.

The EIS also wrote directly to HMRC advising that as many as 25,000 EIS members may be applying for refunds at the end of the tax year, and urging them to prepare for this possibility. Mr Morris added that no further action on reclaiming any overpaid tax is possible by members until the end of the tax year, upon the issuing of P60 end of year statements. Salaries Committee had previously agreed to issue reminders to members summarising the advice, said Mr Morris, and this would take place closer to the end of the tax year.


LGBT Staff Groups

David Farmer (Fife) moved and Nicola Fisher (Equality Convener) seconded a motion calling on the EIS to reaffirm its support for members who wish to set up an LGBTQ staff group in their school. “I work in a school where there is a move towards establishing an LGBT staff group involving different unions. Taking the stop proposed in the motion will send another message to members that the EIS supports them and wants the best for them in their working environment,” said Mr Farmer.

The motion was passed by Council.

Adult/Pupil Ratios on School trips

Equality Convener Nicola Fisher then won the support of Council with a motion calling for an investigation and report on current adult to pupil ratios on school trips, including residential trips, and to use the resulting information as part of the SU4QE campaign, if appropriate.

Ms Fisher said, “In Glasgow, we had a ratio of 1 adult to 10 pupils on school trips. This has now been amended to 1 adult to 15 pupils, without any consultation with teachers. It is worth remembering that those adults are not always teachers – it normally includes parents or other members of the school community. This is a really bad move, and incredibly worrying – it is all about saving money on staffing costs.”

Seconding the motion, Alison Beattie (Glasgow) said, “My branch was alarmed, to say the least, about this change being pushed through with no consultation. Our main concerns are related to the health and safety of the pupils.”

Medical Aid for Palestine

In the final motion passed by Council, Jehan Al-Azzawi (Edinburgh) successfully called for the EIS to donate a further £5000 to Medical Aid for Palestinians, following a similar donation as the result of a motion at a previous meeting of Council.

Moving the motion, Ms Al-Azzawi said, “The state of death and destruction in Gaza continues to be horrific. As we meet today, the number of dead in Gaza is reaching 26,000 – a quite staggering number.”

Ms Al-Azzawi added, “The educational infrastructure in Gaza has been absolutely annihilated. 625,000 school children are currently receiving no education in Gaza, following the enforced shutdown of all education provision. Schools are no longer safe spaces in Gaza and, like hospitals, are increasingly being targeted. More than 70% of the educational establishments have been damaged or destroyed. At least 200 teachers have been killed, and more than 500 injured. Every single university in Gaza has been destroyed. 94 University professors have been killed, many in their own homes.”

Seconding the motion, Equality Convener Nicola Fisher said, “This is an assault on the future of Palestinians, robbing young people of the chance at an education and the chance to become doctors, or lawyers, or teachers in the future. It is absolutely horrifying.”

Speaking in support, Donny Gluckstein (EIS-FELA) said, “We need to carry on showing our support for people in Gaza, and we need to continue to educate our members and our students to let them know what is actually happening in Gaza. To oppose what is going on is not antisemitic – I am Jewish and I oppose the actions of the Israeli state in Gaza.”

Andrew Fullwood (Glasgow) added, “I urge you to support this motion, but also to replicate this motion locally and to make your own donations through local associations.”

Jane McKeown (Fife) urged people to support the screenings of the film “Freedom to Run” across Scotland, which are raising funds for Medical Aid for Palestinians. Other screenings can be arranged, as the Director is keen for the film to be used to raise funds for this cause, she said. Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion, meaning that the EIS has now donated a total of £10,000 to Medical Aid for Palestians.

Council then concluded with a minute’s silence to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, which took place the day after the meeting was held.