Member Bulletin – 21 June 2024

The SNCT Pay Claim 2024-2025 – No improved offer received

The SNCT Teachers’ Side pay claim for 2024-2025 is 6.5% for all SNCT grades from August 2024 and was made in January 2024.  The SNCT Teachers’ Side unanimously rejected the pay offer made on 5 June on behalf of all the teacher unions. Please follow the link to the COSLA Pay Offer Letter 4 June 2024 to see details of the rejected offer.

The SNCT Extended Joint Chairs (SSTA, EIS, COSLA and Scottish Government)  met on 13 and 19 June seeking an improvement of the rejected offer. Unfortunately, there has been no improved offer as we move towards the end of the school year and close to the settlement date of 1 August 2024.
 

Teacher Workload and Working Time Agreement

At this time of the year many schools are completing their Working Time Agreements (WTA). Since 2006 the pupil contact time for secondary teachers in Scotland has been limited to a maximum of 22.5 hours per week with teachers contracted to work for 35 hours per week.

The SNCT handbook states “An allowance of no less than one third of the teacher’s actual class contact commitment is provided for preparation and correction. The use of remaining time will be subject to agreement at school level within LNCT guidelines, based on the Code of Practice on Working Time Arrangements (see Appendix 2.7).”

The WTA in each school specifies the remaining 5 hours per week as ‘Collegiate Time’. Unfortunately, many schools believe that the WTA is a starting point not a maximum. Excessive teacher workload is a major problem in most schools in Scotland and there is a duty on school leadership teams to ensure that teachers’ time is used efficiently and within the allocated times. Equally, we urge all members to play their part and ensure that allocated time is adhered to and used appropriately. The SSTA is quite clear that not all demands upon teachers can be met and therefore the expectations of parents and others need to be managed.

The SSTA has issued WTA guidance to all school representatives but all members should be aware of the details of how a WTA is developed. A recording of the briefing is available to view on the SSTA website.

Did you Know?

There should be a maximum of 5 (five) parental consultation meetings in a year and teacher preparation time should be included. For example, the SSTA recommends that a 3-hour parental meeting should have a 2-hour preparation period. This equates to 5 hours for each parental consultation meeting.

Part-time teachers should only attend the number of parental consultations in the same proportion of the days worked. For example, a teacher who works for 3 days a week should, through negotiation with the Headteacher, attend only 3 parental consultations.

Teachers who work in schools with an asymmetric timetable are not required to remain in schools on a Friday afternoon. Teachers are only required to be engaged in activities on a Friday afternoon if events have been included in the school calendar and the school’s WTA.

 
Mobile phones in Scottish Schools Petition

The SSTA conducted a national survey on Mobile Phones in Schools earlier this year and the results were published in a press release: Press Releases Archives - Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (ssta.org.uk) The SSTA has shared this survey with the Scottish Government and have engaged in developing a Scottish Government policy document.

We have been contacted by a group of teachers in Moray to publicise a petition that has been published, calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to update guidance on mobile phones in schools to require all schools to prohibit the use of mobile phones during the school day, including at interval and lunchtime.

The petition is here: https://petitions.parliament.scot/petitions/PE2106
 

SSTA Membership – Recruit a Colleague

All members are encouraged to recruit a colleague to join the SSTA. SSTA membership is unique in that it offers direct access to a senior official for advice and support. No other teacher union provides this service. The SSTA is the only trade union that offers this access to all members and remember the SSTA is the only teacher union that speaks only for Scottish Secondary Teachers.

  • NQTs – Free until January 2026 (qualified 2024)
  • New members – 50% for 12 months
  • Part-Time – 50% for all part-timers (£9.00 per month)

Any new members can join view the website at www.ssta.org.uk/join 

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Member Bulletin – 5 June 2024

The SNCT Pay Claim 2024-2025 – Pay Offer Rejected

The SNCT Teachers’ Side pay claim for 2024-2025 is 6.5% for all SNCT grades from August 2024 was made in January 2024.  The SNCT Extended Joint Chairs (SSTA, EIS, COSLA and Scottish Government)  met on 4 June and a pay offer was issued by the employers.
 
The pay offer was to cover the SNCT Pay Year 1 August 2024 to 31 July 2025 and consists of:

  • A 2% undifferentiated increase on all SNCT pay points effective from 1 August 2024.
  • A further undifferentiated 1% increase on all SNCT pay points effective from 1 May 2025.


Please follow the link to the COSLA Pay Offer Letter 4 June 2024 

The SNCT Teachers’ Side met on Wednesday 5 June to consider the employers pay offer and it was unanimously rejected by all the teacher unions. The Teachers’ Side is now seeking further negotiations to improve the pay for Scottish Teachers.

Please follow the link to the Teacher’ Side response to the pay offer 
 
Paul Cochrane, SSTA Salaries and Conditions of Service Convenor said.
 
“Unfortunately, despite moving the pay date from April to August and engaging with employers since January, we find that COSLA sees all of these concessions as an opportunity to double down on their delaying tactics. At a time when teachers donate an extra day per week for no pay to hold up a broken system, it is particularly galling that our employers still view us as a political pawn in the local government finance negotiating farce”.
 
“The SSTA looks forward to negotiations taking place quickly so as to reach a settlement that is a step towards the restoration of teachers pay and will encourage the retention of secondary teachers”.

SeamusSCongress24_low

Report of the General Secretary- 79th Annual Congress of the SSTA

The SSTA is entering its 80th year having been established in 1944. The focus of the SSTA was and still is, secondary teachers and secondary education. Over the years the SSTA has dealt with many challenges but throughout its journey it remained true to the position of its members. The SSTA is a very principled union but also a pragmatic one.

The SSTA Has never accepted that things cannot be changed but has worked to find solutions to problems, impasses, or stubbornness of others. The SSTA is a teachers’ union that identifies a problem or can foresee a problem and attempts not only to highlight the problem but is prepared to open discussion with new or different ways to find a solution. The ability to think ‘outside the box’ or question the ‘way things are done’ shows a union that is confident and understands the bigger more important picture. The SSTA must be prepared to stand up to the challenges and be the solution not the problem and it was this way of working and thinking that brought about the SSTA in 1944.

The education landscape in Scotland is in a period of change, some will say that has always been the case, changes that will impact on secondary teachers not only in the short term but for a generation. The changes to assessment and examinations, the future role of the SQA, the future role of Education Scotland, the future of school inspections, the future of the curriculum for excellence, the future of the senior phase in secondary schools, just to name but a few.

All this in a climate of austerity when teachers only know of cuts and further cuts, a plethora of new initiatives all reliant on the ‘goodwill of the teacher’ when graduates are turning their backs to teaching. All this leads for more workload for teachers who are left behind is schools trying to teach pupils with an ever-increasing complex learning needs. Hence, the importance of the SSTA in giving a voice to the thousands of secondary teachers who are isolated from decision making and are always left to ‘pick-up the pieces’ and make things work.

The SSTA is adamant that whatever changes that are to come in the education system must have teachers at the centre and must be a support to teachers in the classroom and not a hinderance. The SSTA will ensure that the teachers are at the centre of the new SQA, Education Scotland will be there to help and support teachers in the classroom.

A new inspection system that supports schools and not focus on the individual teachers and the very different challenges they face. No two schools are the same so why waste time trying to compare and measure things that are different. The fear of inspection is rife in our schools. The fear of inspection is often used as a control mechanism to squash innovation and enthusiasm. It stifles teachers and learning as the focus is about getting higher exam results at the expense of everything else.

If we are to have an inspection system lets inspect those who have the control. Those who control the money, the staffing, and the curriculum. It is a nice notion to believe that schools are autonomous body but that is far from the truth. Everything in schools is prescribed by those above. All that schools do is try to manage to do more with less. Therefore, I say if we are to have inspections then let them inspect those who have the control - the local authorities. This would take pressure off schools and teachers and allow teachers to focus on teaching and learning.

The SSTA challenged the SQA’s plan to revert to the national qualification pre-pandemic requirements in 2024 on two fundamental grounds. The pupils are not ready and most importantly the teachers are not ready. Schools are still addressing education recovery; pupils moving into the senior phase are not in the place they need to be if they are to meet their true potential. However, we do know that both teachers and pupils have struggled this year and I fear that many pupils will either under-perform or fall away from education. The SSTA was the only voice against the return to pre-covid arrangements, but I hope we were wrong, but I fear not.

Poor pupil behaviour remains a major issue for SSTA members and my thanks to members who responded in their thousands to our surveys on pupil behaviour. These surveys helped in pushing the issue to the top of the agenda and not just swept under the carpet. Together with the mobile phone survey that gave real evidence of the disturbance caused by the misuse of mobile phones in schools.

Teachers are employed to teach, and pupils are in school are there to learn and develop into the citizens of the future, but teachers and pupils are not equal. Teachers must be allowed and supported to establish an environment of learning and respect for all. In that environment there must be a level of responsibility expected by pupils to maintain the learning environment and there must be consequences if they do not.

The SSTA survey showed that 88% of members said half their lessons in the week were interrupted by mobile phones. We were also told that 72% of schools had mobile phone policies but only 9% were effective. Teachers are then left in the untenable position of enforcing a policy without the certainty that they would be supported should it become necessary.

I highlight this issue because this is not just happening with mobile phone policies, but I suspect, is also happening to many other school policies. I visited a school where poor pupil behaviour was an issue and met the Headteacher and asked about the ‘on-call’ system. The system that is there for when teachers are having difficulties in the classroom and was informed that 75% of ‘on-call’ requests are not responded to as other more important issues needed to be dealt with. This scenario can be seen in many schools as they do not have sufficient staff to support teachers in the classroom. The result is a demoralised teacher who has lost confidence in the system and respect from their pupils. There is nothing more important that supporting teachers in the classroom and that must be the focus in the future. A policy is a policy if all make it work if not it is just a piece of paper.

The SSTA is deeply concerned about the lack of progress in our negotiations with employers regarding the pay claim for 2024-2025. It's frustrating that despite submitting our claim in January and reiterating our request for a 6.5% pay increase for all SNCT grades, we have not received any pay offer from the employers.

Our recent meeting with COSLA on 1 May revealed that they are "not ready" to make a pay offer yet, citing ongoing discussions with the Scottish Government. They appear to be determined to break the Scottish Government’s policy of maintaining teacher numbers, when not only should they be maintained but increased at a time when the need is at its highest shows a lack of respect to the teacher workforce and their commitment to the pupils in their schools.

While I understand the economic pressures at Scottish Government and at local council level the reluctance to move forward and make a pay offer and entering meaningful negotiation is leaving teachers feeling undervalued and unappreciated.

The Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) is a tripartite committee, the teacher unions, the employers, and Scottish Government all sitting down together as equals to negotiate teachers’ pay and conditions for improvements to the education service. However, when the teacher unions are used as a political football between local and national government there must be a change in attitudes of the parties involved to reach pay agreements and improve the conditions of the teacher workforce. This ‘bickering’ not only undermines the SNCT but feeds a political agenda that is far removed from the needs of the children in our schools.  

This delay is unacceptable, especially considering the upcoming academic year starting in August 2024. It's crucial that all parties work together to achieve fair treatment and recognition for the hard work and dedication of teachers across Scotland.

Furthermore, COSLA's role in the delay of implementing the reduced teacher contact time policy is concerning. The recent Education Workforce Modelling and Research Report, falls short in understanding the complexities of teacher allocation and workload. The report's failure to acknowledge differences between primary and secondary teachers or those in special schools weakens its findings and hampers any effective policy implementation.

The figures do not include the registered number of teachers in Scotland and the scope for encouraging teachers back into the profession. The employer’s reluctance to have all its teachers on permanent contracts. Measures encouraging teachers not to retire early, objecting to job-share and phased retirements all reduce the number of teachers available to introduce the government commitment sooner rather than later. The SSTA does not hold the document as definitive, and it should not be seen as an excuse not to implement the 90 mins sooner rather than later.

The way forward

The SNCT must be made to work where all sides come to the table with good intentions to improve our education system by working to retain and recruit teachers. This goes hand in hand with managing teacher workloads and focussing on teaching and learning. The SNCT must not be the block to improvements and if employers cannot meet the challenge, then they should get out of the way.

The situation would be helped if all the money allocated by the Scottish Government was used for education at local council level. That means ‘ringfence’ education funding and ensure it is spent on education. In addition, Scottish government must ensure not only maintaining but increasing teacher numbers and ensure these are fully funded. This would hopefully, stop some of the wrangling that takes place between COSLA and the Scottish Government and let teachers teach.

As the SSTA, we must continue advocating strongly for our members' interests. We need to push for meaningful negotiations that address not only the pay claim but also workload issues and working conditions. Collaborating with other teacher unions and stakeholders will strengthen our position and ensure that our voices are heard.

[ENDS]

Friday 10 May 2024

StuartHunterCongress24_900

Presidential Address to 79th Annual Congress of the SSTA

At the end of congress last year, I was honoured to have our Immediate Past President, Catherine Nicol, hand over the Presidency to me. It has been a busy year.  To say that it has been exhilarating and an enormous learning curve is understating the last year. Catherine gave me a lift home at the end of congress, and we chatted about what lay ahead.  One thing I knew for certain was that I already knew what my theme was going to be when it came to this day to stand at this lectern to deliver the President’s address.  The actual content was not set in stone, but my theme was: Your Voice. We are the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association and our raison d’etre is to be the Voice of Secondary Teachers, to be your voice.

Over these past 12 months, there have been many issues raised.  Our committees have been working hard, and you will hear their reports later in this congress.  However, to me, there was one issue that stood out from the others.  It has been a long-standing issue and one that can often be linked to the many others that our committees have been working on and that is the issue of workload.

Why workload? Simple really. As our strapline for this year’s congress states:

Excess Workload Damages Health.

We speak about workload, we moan about it, we despair at it, we are exhausted by it.  Even the many past attempts to have it reduced by a plethora of initiatives: anyone remember Tackling Bureaucracy?  That quickly disappeared under a pile of even more paperwork intended to tick boxes that really had nothing to do with the day-to-day teaching in the classroom.

I would like to spend a little time addressing the issue of excess workload, or as I prefer to call it, toxic workload.  How do we define it?  What are the consequences?  Who is responsible and what must be done?

Excess workload is when a teacher's responsibilities and tasks extend beyond the contractual 35hr week.

Do you recognise any of points below?

  • Long working hours: Teachers may work significantly more than the contractual 35hr week, including evenings and weekends, to complete tasks such as planning and preparation, marking, homework assignments, and administrative tasks.
  • High Pupil-to-teacher ratio: Managing large number of students in a classroom can increase the workload for teachers, as it requires more effort to provide differentiated lessons, individualized attention and support.
  • Extensive administrative tasks:  Multiple reports such as tracking, emails and data entry for certificated courses including evidence gathering.
  • Lack of support staff: Taking on tasks performed by support staff (e.g., counselling, mentoring, or special education support).
  • Additional responsibilities: Pressure to take on extracurricular activities, committee work, mentoring, all in the name of enhancing your opportunities for promotion or even a permanent contract.
  • Complex curriculum changes: Frequent changes to the curriculum or educational standards require teachers to spend extra time adapting lesson plans and materials. CfE, SQA?
  • High stakes testing and accountability: Pressure from multiple testing requiring more time for preparing students and subsequent data analysis.
  • Lack of resources: Teaching materials or technology can make tasks more time-consuming e.g. poor Wi-Fi.

Excess workload can lead to:

  • Stress
  • Burnout
  • Decreased job satisfaction impacting teaching effectiveness and students' learning outcomes.

Addressing excessive workload involves providing adequate support and resources to help teachers manage their responsibilities effectively, NOT a program of systematic budget cuts! Neither should the threat of cutting the number of teachers in schools be used as a political weapon.

I am certain that many, if not all of you, recognise the sources of work that increase our workload from normal to excessive or toxic.  This is by no means exhaustive, but merely a flavour of what teachers face, and we have not even touched on faculty heads and Senior Management teams who face a quantum leap in the data required by Local Authorities and the consequential excess workload that they face too.

To recap, excess workload leads to:

  • Stress
  • Burnout
  • Decreased job satisfaction impacting teaching effectiveness and students, learning outcomes

We must now ask ourselves the question: If excess workload leads to stress, burnout and job dissatisfaction, what are these in the real lives of teachers?

There have been several surveys and studies carried out by a number of teacher organisation, including the SSTA.  What follows is a brief overview of some of those statistics on teacher stress and mental health challenges collated from articles in TES.

  • One survey found that 70% of teachers in Scotland feel stressed frequently (48%) or all the time (22%).  Most teachers attempt to manage stress on their own (73%) without seeking help from their school or local authority​.
  • A second survey found that very few teachers believe national support for the wellbeing of the profession is positive, with 81% disagreeing that government policies support schools to respond to mental health and wellbeing issues that affect teachers​.
  • A third survey found that 75% of all education staff reported feeling stressed, with 78% experiencing mental health symptoms due to their work​.
  • Additionally, a report indicated a rise in the number of teachers signed off with stress in Scotland.  The pandemic has exacerbated existing pressures on teachers, including excessive workloads and challenges related to the additional support needs of students.

(All sources collated from TES)

To be frank, these statistics do not tell us anything that we did not already know.  Alas, the results repeatedly fall on deaf ears whilst offering patronising appreciation for what teachers do in schools.

What the articles in TES highlight is that Scotland’s teachers experience high levels of stress on a daily basis. It further highlights the serious concerns how these stress levels impact on teacher wellbeing, mental and physical health. Not only are teachers suffering, the quality of education, despite extraordinary efforts by teachers, is too.

To look at the survey outcomes more closely, we now need to ask: What are the stress related issues and their links to job of teaching?


Stress related symptoms experienced by Scotland’s teachers.

Do any sound familiar to you?

  • Mental health issues: Anxiety, depression, and emotional exhaustion due to work-related stress. It is common for teachers to identify these symptoms with excess workload as the causal link.
  • Physical health problems: Symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, disturbed sleeping patterns, and other health issues.
  • Burnout: Prolonged stress leads to burnout, emotional exhaustion, reduced personal accomplishment, and depersonalization.
  • Reduced job satisfaction: Stress leads to a decrease in job satisfaction and motivation, which can affect teaching performance and student outcomes.
  • Work-life imbalance: Many teachers struggle with maintaining a healthy work-life balance due to high levels of stress and workload​.

The symptoms of stress can, and do have, a significant impact on teachers' overall wellbeing and their ability to perform effectively in the classroom.

An important factor highlighted in the Stress Related Symptoms is the hidden issue of the damage to physical health.

Do you think teaching under the present conditions of service should come with a health warning?

Stress can have a significant impact on teachers' short and long-term health.

  • Sleep disturbances: Stress leads to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, resulting in sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep.  The long-term affect for teachers' can be a drop in energy levels and ability to focus during the day.
  • Musculoskeletal problems: Prolonged stress can contribute to muscle tension, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and back.  Teachers may experience headaches or body pain due to tense muscles.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Chronic stress can cause digestive problems such as upset stomach, indigestion, or irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Cardiovascular problems: High levels of stress can increase the risk of developing heart-related issues such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease.
  • Immune system suppression: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making teachers more susceptible to illnesses and infections.
  • Fatigue: Prolonged stress can lead to physical exhaustion and fatigue, impacting teachers' ability to perform their duties effectively.
  • Weight changes: Stress can lead to changes in appetite and eating habits, resulting in weight gain or loss.

Physical health issues can negatively impact teachers' overall well-being and ability to perform their job effectively.  The best stress management strategy is blatantly obvious:

Reduce workload!

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

However, there is our friend the Elephant.  You know the one I mean.  That Elephant that is so large that we just ignore it and pretend that it is not there!  Nonetheless, there comes a point we must confront what we avoid.  There is an uncomfortable truth that we must face and that is we can be our own worst enemies!  No matter how we feel, no matter how exhausted we are, we simply find it impossible to say “No.”

How many times do we hear the voice in our heads telling us that we cannot let the students down?  We feel compelled to take on additional workload even though we are exhausted and on our knees.  Was it not the reason that many of us came into teaching as a career: To make a difference to the life chances of our students by providing good education?  Many would call teaching a vocation, a calling and many would concur.

The teaching profession is one of self-reflection.  We should reflect on an issue connected to excess or toxic workload. In the past, we have voted in favour of Action short of Strike Action, Working to Contract.  Despite voting for this action to reduce our workload, it very quickly collapses as a means in achieving the intended goal.  Why is this?  The answer is simple: We do not want to let our students down!

We become conflicted. We know only too well what excess workload is doing to us physically and mentally, but we cannot, in all good conscience, let our students down.

This is the conundrum. How do we reduce our workload back to our contractually agreed 35hr working week without having a detrimental impact on our students?  Why do we allow ourselves to be emotionally blackmailed to the point we damage our own mental health to do the job we love: to making a positive difference through education to the lives of every student we teach?

Therefore, to tackle excess workload, it is incumbent on us to identify the root cause.  Only then can we begin the task of making genuine and honest efforts to reduce excess workload, to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of every teacher in the profession.

Colleagues, I ask you to consider and reflect on what is the foundation of our spiralling workload:

Institutional Controlling or Coercive Behaviour.

Institutional Controlling or Coercive Behaviour is similar in many ways to the more commonly known domestic form of abuse. Nonetheless, all forms of abusive behaviour impact negatively on the victims of the abuse.  As already discussed, there are consequences of mental and physical health of victims.  Whilst many schools and Education Authorities have policies and procedures to address controlling and/or coercive behaviour, the truth is that far too often these policies, albeit well-meaning, often end up in a filing cabinet and rarely see the light of day.

Institutional control or coercive behaviour in Scottish schools can manifest as policies and practice that limit, intentional or otherwise, the autonomy and well-being of school staff.  The result can often be a potentially harmful environment in the workplace.

  1. Lack of Autonomy for Teachers: Imposing strict curriculum guidelines and teaching methods without allowing teachers the flexibility to adapt to their students' needs.
  1. Limiting Freedom of Expression: Suppressing or teachers' opinions or views on various topics, including academic, social, or political issues.
  1. Bullying and Harassment: Allowing or participating in bullying or harassment of staff by other teachers, or administrators can create a coercive environment.
  1. Controlling Student Choices: Unduly influencing or restricting students' choices regarding courses, extracurricular activities, or personal interests.
  1. Pressure on Performance: Applying extreme pressure on students to achieve high grades or on teachers to meet certain performance metrics can lead to an unhealthy environment.
  1. Lack of Support for Students and Staff: Failing to provide adequate support for those who are struggling, such as students with special educational needs or staff facing challenges.
  1. Punitive Attendance Policies: Enforcing rigid attendance policies without considering individual circumstances can be coercive.

Top of Form Scottish schools, like educational institutions in other parts of the world, are expected to follow guidelines and policies set by the government and education authorities to ensure a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment for students and staff.  This includes addressing and preventing any forms of controlling or coercive behaviour.

However, the very nature of some policies and educational initiatives deriving from these policies, create the very issues being described.  The drive to close the attainment gap has led to a high stakes exam results driven system that fails to take into consideration all students and sets them up for failure. Persistent changes and requirements by SQA unload an impossible burden on both staff and students. Schools are measured by exam results.  Absolutely no consideration is given to the numerous students who have given their absolute best yet do not meet the magic targets.  The truth is that there are students who are far more suited to achieve success in vocational studies than the academic.

Whilst a number of reviews are taking place, none address the cuts in education and elsewhere.  The likes of social work and Educational Psychology, not to mention the severe lack of mental health support for students.  So, who must fill the void? Teachers!  Teachers are Not social workers.  Teachers are Not Educational Psychologists.  Teachers are Not Mental Health Workers.  Yet this is where Controlling and Coercive behaviour comes in as a direct result of the policy decisions.  Teachers are expected to fill the void, even though we are not trained to provide this service.  Brutal truth?  IT REQUIRES FREE OVERTIME TO ACCOMMODATE ALL OF THESE ADDITIONAL TASKS.  WHY PAY QUALIFIED STAFF WHEN TEACHERS WILL DO IT FOR NOTHING!  It becomes an expectation because teachers ‘will go the extra mile’ for their students.  It will look good on the CV if you are looking for a permanent contract.  We have normalised the exceptional.

We have created a culture whereby, teachers cannot say “no” because it will not look good for them, after all, “It’s for the sake of the kids.”

We have been conditioned over the years by moral blackmail to take on more and more work. We have been very subtly controlled and coerced into believing that we are letting our students down if we do not take on the additional work for which we are not trained.  And I have not even touched on endless reams of data we must process to satisfy those who are nowhere near a classroom, that we are doing an excellent job!

Colleagues. It is our altruistic desire to do the best for our students.  It is our desire not to let a single student down that has become a tool of exploitation and manipulation.

It is Controlling or Coercive Behaviour.

The most effective way to begin the process of ending Controlling and Coercive behaviour is to first to acknowledge that it is happening.  The next step is to unite and with one voice clearly state that magic word: No.

We are part of the toxic culture that has created excess workload that damages our health.  The toxic culture of excess workload means we become less effective to carry out our primary function: To Teach. Let us re-channel out energy to build a culture that encourages and supports us to do what we have been trained to do: To be teachers!

I thank you for your indulgence and patience for listening to this address.

[ENDS]

Papers and classroom

Member Bulletin - 30 April 2024

The Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) Pay Claim 2024-2025

The SNCT Teachers’ Side pay claim for 2024-2025 was submitted in January. The claim for 6.5% for all SNCT grades from August 2024 was acknowledged by the employers at the SNCT meeting in February.

The SNCT Extended Joint Chairs (SSTA, EIS, COSLA and Scottish Government) met prior to Easter where no pay offer was made. COSLA stated it was waiting for a Council Leaders meeting on 27 April before moving forward with a pay offer. A further meeting has been scheduled for this week and the Teachers’ Side is expecting a pay offer if there is any possibility of a pay settlement to be in place by August 2024.

 
 
Reduction in Teacher Contact Time

The Scottish Government made a commitment to reduce teacher class contact time from 22.5 to 21 hours a week during the current parliament. Despite many discussions at SNCT little progress has been made. The employers have balked at the Teachers’ Side position of the additional 90 minutes being given back to teachers for planning, preparation, and correction. The employer has said that there is a problem with appointing the additional teachers to meet the time needed and in addition the employer wants the 90 minutes to be used for collegiate activities.
 
To support the implementation of the reduction in contact time the Scottish Government commissioned a report that includes pupil projections and implications for teaching resourcing. The report identifies the falling roll in the primary sector and the required number of teachers needed to implement the reduced teacher contact time policy. This report will be released shortly.

 

Inspectorate Review

The newly appointed HM Chief Inspector of Education, Janie McManus, has announced a review of the school inspection approaches to ensure that they reflect changes in educational priorities. The review will explore various aspects of the school inspection process, including the How Good Is Our School? 4th edition framework, activities before, during and following an inspection, and how we report the findings. (HMCI Letter to Stakeholders 26 April 2024) The SSTA will be involved in the review and will be seeking fundamental changes that make the inspection mechanism appropriate and supportive to teachers and schools.


 
Education Scotland

Education Scotland is making changes to its structure to strengthen work on Scotland’s curriculum, closing the attainment gap, and support with areas such as improvement in attendance and behaviour. Part of this a new ‘Meet the team’ contact directory that shows the senior regional advisors, the teams they have in place and the geographical areas they support.
 
In addition, a range of professional learning programmes are listed on a new Learning, Teaching and Assessment Portal on Glow and should be of interest to educational staff.


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Close up of student using cell phone during class at school.

92% OF LESSONS INTERRUPTED BY PUPIL MOBILE PHONES

In the 2023 SSTA survey, 71% of members highlighted that the misuse of mobile phones was having an impact on poor pupil behaviour and learning.

The SSTA Education Committee wanted to get further information on the use of mobile phones in school and commissioned a survey to find out members views. The survey took place in February 2024 with 1,451 members responding.

Seamus Searson SSTA General Secretary said.

“92% of members said their lessons were being interrupted by asking pupils to put away their mobile phones. 13% of members said half their lessons were interrupted but more worryingly 75% said the majority to all their lessons were interrupted”.

When members were asked about their concerns of the inappropriate use of mobile phones during lessons members said

90%     pupils have detachment issues

90%     Texting during lessons

80%     Taking photos

60%     Social media bullying

46%     Answering calls during the lessons

41%     Viewing inappropriate content

35%     Live recording of lessons (audibly, visually, or both)

In addition, members gave other examples of misuse of mobile phones in lessons such as gaming, recording staff, listening to music, watching tv, contacting parents to make a complaint about staff, taking and hiding other people’s phones, anxiety (constantly checking), arranging meetings in corridors or toilets, use of snapchat or YouTube, cheating during tests, upskirting, videoing fights and bullying then sharing on social media, AI friends and online ‘dares’, etc.


When members were asked what strategies, they used to prevent the use of mobile phones in your class they reported that.

86%     Pupils were asked to put phones away

83%     Pupils were asked to put phone in school bags

67%     Phones placed on teachers’ desk if used in lesson

44%     Pupils were asked to put phone on silent

21%     Pupils asked to place phones into a box or doocot at start of lesson

In addition, members said the school confiscated the mobile phone, phones were sent to school office, messages were sent home to parents, demerits were issued, and whole school detentions were issued. However, these measures led to complications such as confrontation with pupils when they refuse to give phones up often with parental support, possibility of theft and claims made against school staff, and many pupils need their phones to pay for school lunch.

James Cowans, SSTA Education Convenor said

“62% of members saw the benefits of using mobile phones in helping with lessons. In many cases this was due to the lack of access to other mobile devices or poor connectivity within the school. 64% of members stated that wi-fi connection is variable to poor and 30% saying that they do not have access to a class set of mobile devices for use in their lessons”.

“72%, of schools have a mobile phones policy in place, to try and address issues but only 10% stated that the policy was extremely/very effective. Schools are struggling to implement successful mobile phone policies. There are several issues with implementing a policy such as inconsistency, legality, pupils conforming, no consequences, support from local authorities that need to be resolved”.

Seamus Searson added.

“It would appear that the benefits/advantages of using mobile phones are now outweighed by the negative impact that they are having on learning and teaching, behaviour, attainment and achievement. Only 37% of members support a complete ban of mobile phones in school, however, the majority would support a mobile phone ban from the classroom and other parts of the school”.

“Mobile phones are preventing teachers from teaching and creating problems for pupils that are on a scale many teachers and parents cannot imagine. The mobile phone is the most important possession to pupils and is taking over their lives and their futures. There needs to be a concerted effort from the Scottish Government, local authorities, schools working together with teachers, pupils and their parents to redress the balance of what is acceptable mobile phone use and its place in a young person’s life”.

[ENDS]

Attached

SSTA Press Release - Mobile Survey 2024 - Summary.pdf

membersbulletin

Members Bulletin - 12 March 2024

The Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) Pay Claim 2024-2025

The SNCT Teachers’ Side pay claim for 2024-2025 was submitted in January. The claim for 6.5% for all SNCT grades from August 2024 was acknowledged by the employers at the SNCT meeting in February. COSLA stated at the meeting that it was in discussions with the Scottish Government regarding local authority funding and public sector pay. It was also waiting for the Westminster Budget on 6 March to see if there would be any additional money for Scotland. To date no further response to the SNCT pay claim has been received. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for a pay settlement to be in place by August 2024.
 
 
SSTA General Treasurer Election

The SSTA General Treasurer Elaine Henderson (Aberdeenshire) is stepping down at the end of the SSTA Congress in May 2024 and following the required nomination period John Guidi (East Renfrewshire) has been elected. John was nominated by several SSTA Districts and was elected unopposed. John will replace Elaine at the end of Congress in May and hold the position until the close of Congress 2027. The Association would like to thank John for putting himself forward and wish him well in taking forward this important position in the Association.
 
 
International Women’s Day (STUC Event) Open invitation
 
In celebrating International Women’s Day, the STUC Women’s Committee will be hosting an event on Thursday 14 March at the STUC, Margaret Irwin Centre, Glasgow from 6:00  – 7:30 pm.
 
International Women’s Day is celebrated worldwide, marking women’s progress and achievements. The STUC Women’s Committee, is proud to stand alongside all those women internationally fighting for justice and equality. Every day, women are contributing to and making history, yet their achievements, stories and successes are often overlooked. The Herstory Project, developed by the STUC Women's Committee, aims to engage, encourage, and empower trade union women with the confidence, courage, and skills to share a story of their own, and to equip them with the tools to support other trade union women to do the same.

To register your attendance please click here: STUC Women's Committee IWD Event
 
 
SQA N5 and Higher English - consultation on Scottish set text refresh
 
The SSTA was contacted by the SQA to share information of a consultation on the Scottish Set Text list for N5 and Higher English. The link to the SQA English homepage contains information about the consultation. -  https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/47410.html
 


Teacher Pension Applications and 2015 Remedy
 
The SPPA has advised that the implementation of the 2015 Remedy is progressing well. The SPPA’s purpose is to pay pensions accurately and on time but members’ retirement applications need to be received in time.
 
Retirement application forms need to be submitted to the SPPA at least four months before the retirement date. This is to allow the additional calculations needed for the 2015 Remedy. This requirement applies to all members and not just those affected by Remedy. SPPA do not have the ability to fast track late applications. Payments will be affected if retirement applications are submitted later than four months before retirement. 

 

Online Retirement Workshop - Monday 18 March @ 5.30pm

Following on from the in-person retirement workshops which took place in recent weeks, an online workshop will now take place via Teams on Monday 18 March at 5.30pm.

This is one of the most important years to look at various options that you have available regarding your retirement. With the changes that have been brought about following the Sergeant and McCloud ruling you need to understand the impact these will have on your pension and your retirement.

The workshop is designed to take you through these options and help you understand what your retirement can look like. We will be exploring the actions you can take both before and after retirement to give you a secure financial future. We will run through various examples looking at cashflows to help identify how you can structure your retirement incomes, as well as your savings and investments to give you the retirement you desire.

The Workshop will last approx. 1 hour 30 minutes and will explore the following topics:

  • Introductions
  • The Teachers’ Pension Schemes
  • Sargeant & McCloud - The impact
  • Phased Retirement & what has happened to Winding Down
  • Cashflow in Retirement
  • Using your Savings and Investments
  • Where can you get help.

Register for a place at the retirement workshop.

Female Student Raising Hand To Ask Question In Classroom

Children’s Education at Risk by Cutting Teacher Numbers

Children’s Education at Risk by Cutting Teacher Numbers

As Scottish Councils are setting education budgets for 2024-2025 the SSTA is receiving reports of education cuts with teachers and educational support staff numbers being reduced.

Seamus Searson SSTA General Secretary said:

“It's that time of the year again. Teachers are tired of being used as a ‘political football’ in the funding battle with the Scottish Government. The Councils have used this tactic in previous years to force money from the Government. This was also a tactic used 2023 in allowing the continuation of the first teacher strike in 40 years. Councils are threatening to reduce the number of teachers at a time when more are needed. I hope the Scottish Government do not call the councils’ bluff”.

“Teachers have been dealing with years of reduction in education funding at school level without the prospect of real investment in education. Something needs to change to ensure our children get the best opportunities at school and cutting teachers is not the answer”.

Stuart Hunter SSTA President said:

“Once again, teachers and students suffer the fallout from a tripartite system that is no longer fit for purpose.  The news is that Glasgow has told teacher unions that it proposes to reduce teacher numbers by changing pupil-teacher ratio as a response to the Scottish government council tax freeze”.

“Whilst the local authority and the Scottish Government flex their muscles in a playground standoff, the teaching profession and the students have become the weaponised instrument of their political bickering. Teachers are already past breaking point because of a toxic workload. To reduce the number of teachers will only exacerbate an already failing system that requires considerable amounts of free overtime to ensure that our children are given the best education possible.  

“The playground tantrums borne out of political grandstanding creates harmful fallout for teachers and students alike. These antics will only see the attainment gap widen to the detriment of our students and impact on their future life choices. Therefore, my message to you is grow up, show a little maturity and work together for the sake of education in Scotland”.

mobilephone-classroom

SSTA Mobile Phone Survey

The SSTA has taken a stance to support teachers to use their own discretion when it comes to the use of mobile phones in their classes. The reason for this position was due to the poor access to computers, mobile devices and connectivity to the internet (WiFi). Over the past few years there has been growing concern that the use of mobile phones is impacting on pupils learning, their health and wellbeing and behaviour.

The OECD  United Nations has warned of the risks of smartphones in schools, stating "only technology that supports learning" is merited in schools. Mobile devices can cause distraction, risk pupil privacy and lead to cyber-bullying says UNESCO, the UN's education, science and culture agency. (Reported 26 July 2023)

The Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science, Robbert Dijkgraaf, announced that, in order to limit potential distractions for students, mobile phones and other smart devices will no longer be permitted in classrooms in schools in the Netherlands from 1 January 2024. (Reported 6 Jul 2023)

A crackdown on the use of mobile phones in Scottish schools is being considered amid growing concerns that they disrupt learning and affect brain development. Jenny Gilruth, the Scottish Education Secretary, is “very interested” in a UN report that recommended a ban. She told ‘The Times’ that she would consider ordering research into the effect that stricter phone policies could have on education. This could include looking at the effect of locking devices away for the day in secure boxes. (Times 4 September 2023)

From a recent report on behaviour in Scottish schools, ‘the abusive use of mobile phones and digital technologies was one of the most frequently experienced serious disruptive behaviours among secondary staff,’(Behaviour in Scottish Schools 2023, Scottish Government, November 2023)

An email has been sent to members with a link to the mobile phone survey. To allow the SSTA to take forward our members concerns, we would be grateful if you could take time to complete this survey. It will help to inform our position on the use of mobile phones in schools

Thank you for taking time to complete the survey and your ongoing support.

newsletter

SSTA Newsletter - December 2023

The December 2023 Newsletter is now available for members to download.

SSTA Newsletter – December 2023

The newsletter contains information on the following items:

  • Message from the President  
  • Notification of the Election of General Treasurer
  • SNCT Pay 2024-2025
  • 2024 Subscription Fees
  • Dignity and Respect at Work
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • Advice for Probationer Teachers
  • Salary Scales