The EIS announced the launch of the campaign Stand up for Quality Education at the Annual General Meeting in June. The aim of the campaign is to significantly improve teachers’ working conditions, and health, safety and wellbeing at work and by so doing, the quality of learning experiences for learners.
Through branch meetings, surveys and even discussions on Pay Attention strike picket lines, the EIS identified that supporting ASN, tackling excessive workload and pupil behaviour are the issues of greatest concern to members. The Executive Committee was clear that it wished to campaign in these three areas to improve teachers’ working conditions and to positively affect pupils’ learning experiences and their outcomes.
Focussing on these 3 key priority areas the campaign will call for:
- A significant reduction in teacher workload
- An increase in funding and support for pupils with additional support needs
- The skills, resources and school culture to address distressed, violent and aggressive pupil behaviour
To do this, we need to use the full range of tools available to us as trade unionists, standing up for more funding and resources, standing up for empowerment and teacher autonomy and ultimately, standing together to deliver ‘Quality Education’.
The first phase – Pupil behaviour
In the initial phase of the campaign, EIS Executive has chosen to focus on the issue of pupil behaviour. Recent reported increases in violent incidents in our schools are an issue of huge concern, which must be tackled by local authorities and the Scottish Government.
The focus of this campaign theme is to build the skills, resources and school culture to address distressed, violent and aggressive pupil behaviour.
This will not be focussed on the pupils, but the support that teachers have, to foster good relationships and positive pupil behaviour, and how schools and councils respond to pupil behaviour incidents. It’s about prevention as far as possible and appropriate responses when violent, aggressive and distressed behaviour does occur.
There have always been issues with pupil behaviour in our schools. There has been a relatively low number of serious incidents, but this has begun to increase in recent years. Rising levels of poverty, social deprivation, poor mental health, social media influence, the impact of Covid and ongoing under-resourcing in schools have all contributed to an increase in distressed, violent and aggressive pupil behaviour.
Disruptive pupil behaviour is a serious health and safety issue. It is important to recognise that not only the most serious of these incidents must be tackled, but the ongoing lower-level disruption can have a cumulative stress impact on teachers and can be detrimental to their health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Local Authorities have a duty of care to all their employees, and it is important they take the necessary steps to ensure that our schools are as safe as possible, without damaging the open and welcoming environment that our schools seek to provide.
To support the campaign, and to gather firm evidence on the scale of the issue, all EIS Reps were issued with a survey to be completed as a collective branch activity. The data gathered from this survey will be crucial as this phase of the campaign moves forward. Thank you to all Reps, branches and members involved in completing and returning the survey.
Summit on pupil behaviour
One early outcome from teacher campaigning was the decision by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Jenny Gilruth, to establish a summit on pupil behaviour. The EIS welcomed this development, and is represented on the summit group by a member from the EIS Executive Committee.
Commenting on the establishment of the group, EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley said, “While incidents of serious indiscipline and violence are still comparatively rare in our schools, there has been a marked increase in the number reported in recent years. It is, therefore, welcome that the Scottish Government is seeking ways of addressing this worrying increase in reported violent incidents in our schools.”
“Real solutions, including additional resources must be forthcoming, and quickly. Schools must be safe places to learn and to teach, safe spaces for students and staff alike, not least because health and safety legislation requires it. The impact of the pandemic on young people, coupled with the continuing scourge of poverty and the huge increase in the number of young people requiring specialist additional support, including mental health support, have combined to create an environment where anxiety, frustration and disaffection can potentially fester.
In addition to the branch survey, packs of materials to support the campaign were sent out to schools before the summer break, and posters focusing on the first phase of the campaign should now be visible on noticeboards. Advice on dealing with violent and disruptive behaviour was also produced and circulated, and is also available on the EIS website
Merchandise, utilising the new logo and campaign colours, has been ordered and will be distributed to school branches in the near future.