When she took up her post over the summer, Andrea Bradley became the first woman to hold the post of General Secretary in the 175-year history of the EIS. Before her appointment as General Secretary, Andrea served as EIS Assistant Secretary (Education and Equality), a post she held for seven years. Andrea became an EIS official in 2014, when she was appointed as National Officer (Education and Equality). Prior to this, Andrea was a Principal Teacher of English in South Lanarkshire. She graduated with a degree in History and English from the University of Strathclyde, before returning to the university to complete her Post-Graduate Diploma in Education.
Following her first few months in the post, the SEJ spoke to Andrea to find out how she was settling into the post, and to ask her views on the priorities for the EIS and for Scottish education in the months and years ahead.New General Secretary gets stuck in
How did it feel to be appointed as General Secretary of the EIS?
I was honoured to be chosen as the General Secretary of the EIS, and I have enjoyed being thrown in at the deep end during a hugely busy time for the union. I don’t underestimate the challenges that the EIS is currently facing, but I intend to tackle these head-on. In the immediate term, securing a fair pay settlement for Scotland’s teaching professionals remains the top priority for the EIS and I will do all that I can towards achieving this objective.
Pay is a huge issue across the public sector at the moment – is it a fight that can be won?
The fight-back of workers against the cost of greed, has been front and centre of the EIS’s attention, and that of the wider trade union movement, in recent months. And, as the largest teacher union in Scotland, the EIS is at the forefront of the protest and resistance from the teaching profession. From West to East and North to South, our activists are now in over-drive organising around the cost of living crisis.
Government is claiming that there is no more money for public sector pay – what is your view?
For all that Scotland might be constrained by the limitations of devolution, far from being paralysed, it must move decisively and fast, and activate the levers of power that are within the control of the Parliament, to mitigate the threat of the looming humanitarian crisis for our citizens.
What can EIS members do to support the pay campaign?
I would urge all members to vote in the forthcoming statutory ballot so that we can smash the anti-trade union thresholds and in so doing, deliver a powerful message to the Scottish Government and COSLA that they must pay attention to the justified demands of teachers in Scotland. It is reasonable that Scotland’s teachers demand a pay rise that will protect their salaries from the worst ravages of inflation – an economic maelstrom not remotely of their making.
Is there an equality issue at the core on the level of teachers’ pay?
As a majority female (80%) profession, it is justified that teachers are speaking up against the gender pay injustice that sees their salaries compare unfavourably to those of other graduate, predominantly male, professions. This is all the more justifiable when Scotland has a stated commitment to closing the gender pay gap.
Away from pay, what other challenges are currently facing the EIS?
Education reform is a huge issue at present, and the EIS is playing at active role. We are involved in discussions on the Hayward Review of Qualifications and Assessment, and in those looking at the replacement of Education Scotland. We are directly engaging with Professors Alma Harris and Carol Campbell who are leading the National Discussion and there is agreement that the EIS will host a large discussion of EIS members, led by the Professors, in November. We also have involvement in education reform oversight through our involvement in the Curriculum and Assessment Board (CAB), and we are pushing for a place on the board overseeing the replacement of the SQA – this has been raised directly with the Cabinet Secretary for Education who has said that the EIS will have a place.
So, busy times ahead?
It is a busy time for everyone associated with the union – members, branch Reps, local associations, self-governing associations, elected members, Council and committee members, and EIS staff. The strength of the EIS is a collective of people working together towards common goals. On key campaign issues, such as pay, it is by working together that we can achieve our objectives and deliver a desirable outcome for all EIS members. All of us have a key part to play – the power of the union is its members, and it’s through that strength that we can deliver victory on the issues that our members care about.
We urge members to vote in the forthcoming statutory ballot so that we can smash the anti-trade union thresholds