CONGRESS 2007 MOTIONS PASSED

CONGRESS 2007 MOTIONS PASSED

The following motions were approved at the Association's 63nd Annual Congress, 11-12 May 2002 , Hilton Coylumbridge, Aviemore. The following motions were approved by Congress.

MOTION 1This Association believes that employers of teachers in Scottish schools should ensure that every time a pupil is excluded from school for violent behaviour, a Risk Assessment is carried out, as a matter of course, before that pupil returns to school.

MOTION 2This Association expresses grave concern about misuse of internet posting sites to harass, intimidate and defame teachers. The Association calls on the Scottish Executive to co-operate with all appropriate regulatory bodies to ensure that owners of such sites are made responsible for the content therein.

MOTION 3Congress calls on the Scottish Executive and the GTC(S) to ensure that the providers of Initial Teacher Education courses in Scotland review each of these courses to ensure that students are appropriately trained regarding Health & Safety legislation and regulation. Students should also be trained to recognise problems which they may encounter as teachers and which may affect the health & safety of both pupils and teachers.

MOTION 4 This Association, being aware of unusually high levels of mesothelioma in the population who attended school in Scotland from the 1960s onwards, demands that the Scottish Executive undertakes an intensive audit of all local authority schools in Scotland and ensures that no asbestos remains present in these buildings so that in consequence future health risks are minimised.

MOTION 5 This Association expresses concern that the focus of “A Curriculum for Excellence” loses sight of the traditional subject-based curriculum in favour of an excessive emphasis on a process driven approach.

MOTION 6 Congress notes with concern that, while schools are being exhorted to engage with the Curriculum for Excellence programme, there is, as yet, very little concrete detail with which to engage. SEED is therefore exhorted to produce a more definitive timetable for the programme's implementation and more information to assist schools with forward planning and necessary curricular decision-making.

MOTION 7This Congress calls on the Scottish Executive to take action to preserve the breadth of curriculum which has gained Scottish education an international reputation for excellence. The basic content of curriculum must be protected from individual Head Teachers and Authorities removing subjects currently on offer in schools and thus limiting choice to students.

MOTION 8Congress calls upon the incoming Scottish Executive and all local authorities to ensure that the principles of a Curriculum for Excellence are not compromised by reductions in funding or staffing in any of Scotland's schools.

MOTION 9This Association reminds local authorities that the concept of inclusion has a wider application than merely to assign or condemn young people with additional support needs to mainstream education where some are clearly unable to access the curriculum in any meaningful way.

MOTION 10Congress supports moves by the Scottish Executive to create an effective framework which ensures that monies intended for school use are actually used to provide services for or within schools and not diverted to non-educational services.

MOTION 11Now that all schools in Scotland are health promoting schools, this Association calls upon the Scottish Executive to encourage and assist local authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure that a teacher's work can be achieved within the agreed 35 hour week.

MOTION 12This Association welcomes, in principle, the proposed introduction, by UCAS, of post qualification applications (PQA) to Higher Education, but registers its concern on the potential workload implications for teachers during the summer holiday period.

MOTION 13This Association urges all local authorities to ensure that they observe the requirements of SNCT18 in disciplinary procedures relating to teachers. Furthermore, we urge employers to ensure that no employee may act as investigating officer without having undergone relevant training to include familiarisation with ACAS Code of Practice and the Employment Act 2002.

EMERGENCY MOTION

Congress welcomes the assertion by the Scottish Executive that funding will be made available to reduce class sizes in S1/S2 English and Maths from August 2007.

Congress does, however, remain sceptical that the introduction of 20 as an 'average' rather than 'maximum' class size will be to the benefit of all pupils, particularly those who will remain in classes of over 20 pupils and calls upon the new Minister for Education to reaffirm the SEED commitment to a maximum class size of 20.

CONGRESS GENERAL SECRETARY'S REPORT - 12 MAY 2006

GENERAL SECRETARY'S REPORT - FRIDAY 12 MAY 2006

President, Colleagues,I rise today to present to you the report of the General Secretary. I now do this for the 10th time, re-enacting my first speech to you here in Aviemore in 1997. You may recall that day well, but it will almost certainly be for reasons other than the perspicacity and erudition of my peroration. Yes, it was the day when Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, aged 14 ¾ first ascended to the throne and swept away 17 years of Tory misrule. The good old days – days when any scandal or disaster by new Labour could be blamed on “the bleedin' Tories.” So, no change there then Charles Clarke?My personal recollections of that day have a slightly different focus – the awesome task of advising the then Acting-President Bill Guthrie, of 4 weeks standing, on the basis of my several weeks of experience; a comedy of errors in the suspension of standing orders in the Constitutional Amendment session; doing TV interviews when I was due to be speaking in the hall. Ah yes, the good old days indeed. However, my purpose in making reference to this anniversary is to ask you to join me in looking at the ways in which we as an Association have changed or remained the same over that period.In the vast majority of ways, we have collectively made huge advances. Not least of these is the reversal of the previous trend of a falling membership to give us a 40% increase in membership against a background of lower teacher numbers overall. It would be very wrong, however, to look only at these bare statistics quod vide school exam results and league tables. If all we did was recruit with empty promises we might well have imploded by now. Instead, what we have seen is an empowerment of our activists and a huge expansion of our capacity to deliver services to members. We have decentralised power and allowed and encouraged lay members at national and local level to seize the opportunity to advance the cause of the Association at every and any opportunity.We have reshaped our staffing to give even greater priority to direct Member and Official support. Our administrative colleagues have been encouraged and enabled to work at the highest level of their personal capacity and as a result we now have outstanding achievement in the technical and service areas of our business. Their excellent input has freed up our Secretariat and Professional Officers to devote much more time to direct contact with members and officials, whilst ensuring the highest level of service delivery overall. Our continued expansion in quantity and quality has seen us move premises on two occasions, most recently to our new and as yet unnamed office in West End Place. As well as restoring our capacity to hold meetings within the office once more, we have paved the way for future growth and development. This signifies the attitude of a dynamic and forward thinking union, confident in its past achievements and its future prospects.Our influence and impact on the education scene remains at a consistently high level, locally, nationally and internationally. I have to repeat to you, however, that not everything has changed. In some ways we have not budged an inch, and we remain exactly where we were when I reported to you for the first time. What are these ways?Our stance as being non party-political remains unaltered. We are a broad church, with activists from all political parties and none, but we are beholden to no external group. This allows us to be unchanged in our other main stance of being fearlessly willing to speak out on every issue we believe to be of concern. We remain willing to be eccentric, egregious and emphatic as well as consensual and co-operative as the need arises. We speak in measured tones, or stridently as the need arises and we speak with authority on our areas of expertise and only on these.We remain distinctive as a union for secondary teachers and schools, whilst showing the greatest respect for our colleagues who work in other sectors of education in which we do not operate. This applies to our geographically separated kith and kin in these islands and all over the world, not least the recent delegation from New Zealand who sought our views in their visit to our office just last week. Here endeth the first reading!Going back to a more recent date, 2003 to be precise, I reported to you my growing concerns about the role of local authorities in a devolved Scotland. Our policy moved on in 2004 to call for sharing of services across Council boundaries in addition to our longstanding but often forgotten policy of having Joint Boards for education, most likely along the lines of the police force and health services. I have to report to you today that there is a more urgent need than ever to review governmental functions in a devolved Scotland. In a nation of 5 million persons, we simply do not need the level of bureaucracy that we suffer under. In terms of education we have organised, controlled or maintained at national level the curriculum, examinations, teacher entry/exit and qualifications, pensions, salaries, conditions of service, CPD, promotion structures, inspections, overall funding levels, health and safety parameters, employment law, old uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. There is a national strategy which seeks to devolve much operational control to the individual school and head teacher.What then does this leave us in the middle? 32 local authorities who are simultaneously charged with implementation of all of the national strategies whilst attempting to show how much better they are than their neighbouring authority. As Professor Richard Kerley recently put it, how can there be 32 best ways to pay salaries to staff? How can there be 32 best ways of interpreting SNCT 26? How do the young people of our nation benefit from 32 separate sets of local conditions and arrangements? At what price comes such diversity? It is a constant source of contention that tracing the progress of money allocated at Holyrood (or Westminster) to be used in schools is more akin to a game of “find the lady” than a scientific analysis. The so called “Brown money“ which we hear of annually is an unknown quantity to most head teachers. The fog of war obscures the whole issue of finance, so much so that we now have Highland Council threatening the demise of all Advanced Higher classes. The reason given – yes it's the other old game - blame McCrone! The lack of classes is down to the extra non-contact time from 2006 apparently, even though all of the McCrone agreement was fully costed and funded, from 2001 onwards.The true underlying problem is in the structure we have. It does not require 32 separate authorities to administer the system. The concept that local democracy hugely influences strategy is outdated in the context of the education service we now have. Do the citizens of Hamilton and Motherwell have such radically different views about education as they have football teams in different leagues? Are the requirements of young people in Musselburgh so different to those in Dalkeith or Peebles? Very few, if any, motorists now subscribe to the old theories that certain brands of petrol are superior to others. The old allegiance to BP and Shell has now been replaced with buying from the cheapest or most convenient source, reassured by the BS number on the pump and the activities of inspectors. Our habits have changed radically in this area. The same should be true of governance of schools – we need a new model which avoids the problems created by the 1994 local Government Reform Act, passed by – oh yes, of course – the “bleedin' Tories.”When the Scottish Executive get around to looking at all of this after the 2007 election, they could do worse than look at our standing policy for joint boards and devise a system around that model. As an Association we will need to have some debate about our view on what shape we believe any reformed system would have, and we need to do this in the near future.In conclusion, I want to make a third visit to my past reports, this time to 2004 when I gave you a glimpse into the way I saw the world in 2020. Bringing you up to date involves letting you know that First Minister Tommy Sheridan survived the “votes for flights to the moon” scandal and went on to sit in the new Scottish House of Peers as “Lord Sheridan of that ilk.” Taking you even further beyond this world of 2020, an exercise which we have had to undertake in the recent negotiations on pensions, we need to look at the long-term trends in birth rates and population structures. Whilst these matters will not directly affect most of those in the room today during their teaching service, we do have to look forward to see what kind of education system and what kind of teachers we will require in 2040 and beyond.The falling birth rate – down by 32% since 1960 continues its cyclical downward trend. The impact of this will be to leave us with an ever-reducing group of young and working-age citizens whilst the over 60s will be the largest group in the overall profile. These diagrams are actually representative of Germany, but the trends are made very clear and are equally true of the UK. Will a society with this greater dependence on a smaller number of wealth-creating citizens start to press for a more Dickensian approach to education and work? Will we see selection at 5 or 10 years of age into the “students” and the “workers” to enable a much greater young workforce to help support the rest of the community? Will teachers be expected to run an increasingly elitist system for the greater good of all? Will the average age of teachers in 2040 creep up and up so that much of the service delivery is done by colleagues over 65? The concept of “Knowledge leverage” will apply in the world of 2040, so much so that, for example, a naval warship which currently has a crew of 350-400 will operate with less than 100 through the use of this technologically driven “Knowledge leverage”. Pilotless aircraft are already seen as the next step in potentially hostile environments such as flying football fans of a certain nation to away football matches. The ability of an elite of highly-trained and skilled workers to deliver with a minimum of human interaction will be crucial to the prosperity and growth that nations will demand and suggests that differential levels of education may well become the norm. These will be based, however, not on parental wealth or background, but on a psychometric testing of perceived aptitude for the higher order tasks. It will echo the world of Romanian gymnasts and East German swimmers, segregated at the age of 5 or less and “hothoused” to harness their capacity to deliver, regardless of the personal consequences. There will be a considerable moral dilemma for the SSTA members of 2040 – societal development or personal growth may be the choices for learners in those days.In the usual way of latter-day prophecies, it may well be that 2040 arrives long before its chronological position. Regardless, the consequences will be equally inescapable. Crystal ball gazing it may be, but to the 31-year-old teachers today, this is their future career and we must prepare them and our Association for these days. What kind of union will we require then for these years ahead? We will still need a union run by its activists, one in which member involvement remains crucial, and one which is characterised by the personal touch. And who will run this union in 10 or 20 or 30 years time? The baton will pass to those of you here today, and to those back in your schools, just as it has passed from generation to generations over that last 60-some years. What we need to do now is to enable the next generation to maintain the tradition, the record of achievement and the forward-mindedness of this Association. In your hands the future of the Association and all it stands for will be safely assured. You will not fail us. I present my report. David Eaglesham

11 May 2007

CONGRESS PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS - 12 MAY 2006

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS - FRIDAY 12 MAY 2006

SUPPORTING TEACHERS PROFESSIONALISM”

Since becoming SSTA President in May last year, I have been privileged to represent the Association at a wide variety of events throughout Scotland, the UK and Ireland and occasionally in Europe, and, on such occasions, I have been tremendously impressed and encouraged by the respect and goodwill shown towards the Association. The SSTA enjoys a well-deserved and hard-won reputation both within Scotland and the wider education community for a commitment to ensuring that the secondary view is properly represented nationally and internationally in all negotiations, policy formulation and campaigns for the improvement of educational standards and social conditions. Underpinning these aims, at the heart of all we do, is an unequivocal belief in, and support for, teacher professionalism. I can claim no credit for this enviable position achieved painstakingly by the efforts of so many others during the last 62 years, but I can assure you from personal experience that it does make a difference for those of us representing the Association today.

Congress will be hugely relieved to hear that I have no intention of giving a resume of all the meetings, conferences and other events I have attended over the past year but I would like to mention briefly two very contrasting events which illustrate for me, in different ways, the Association's central place as an organisation for professional teachers. The first of these, and by far the largest, was that wonderful sun-filled day on Saturday 2 July last year when half a dozen SSTA members, along with around 250,000 others from Scotland, the UK, Europe and beyond, took part in the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh prior to the G8 summit at Gleneagles. Some of the events surrounding the G8 itself are perhaps best forgotten but I'm sure that the scale of the march, the camaraderie and unity of purpose amongst the many diverse groups participating and hopefully the clear message sent to governments that day will remain in our memories forever. The SSTA banner (with a little help and local knowledge of the area surrounding the Meadows) was on prominent display. The second, and possibly one of the smallest, was on a somewhat less sun-filled day on a wet and windy evening in Stornoway on Wednesday 15 February this year when I attended the Eilean Siar District AGM. There were 9 members in attendance, several apologies received and Alistair Moffat apologised for the unusually sparse turn out. When I tell you that there are 71 members in Eilean Siar District and that over 12% of the membership were in attendance that evening (equivalent to over 50 attending meetings in my own Aberdeenshire District) I think we need Alistair to share the secrets

of his success in achieving such a high participation rate. It became clear in the course of the evening that this was a meeting of dedicated and experienced teachers, concerned for the future of their profession and fiercely loyal to the SSTA and all it stands for and I am confident that I would have found the same commitment to the ideals of the Association at every District / Area AGM.This year's Congress theme “Supporting Teacher Professionalism” recognises this as a core responsibility of the Association towards its members, but also identifies the emphasis currently placed on the development of a confident and highly regarded workforce of committed, well-trained and supported teachers with an enhanced concept of professional autonomy within a more collegiate working environment and has its origins both in the original McCrone Report published in May 2000 and the “Teaching Profession for the 21st Century” agreement based on the McCrone recommendations published in January 2001. Scottish Ministers have increasingly emphasised the value they place on the professionalism of teachers in Scotland and Curriculum for Excellence documentation stresses the move towards more responsibility for professional judgement and creativity within broader curriculum parameters. I must admit that, for me, this does make a welcome change from being constantly berated for a complete lack of professionalism during various disputes during the last 30 years and an uneasy feeling that teachers were being seen more as technicians delivering production-line qualifications rather than credible skilled professionals. August 2006 is the very earliest date for the criteria identified in Annex C of the TP 21 agreement to be seen to be in place, and for the final sections of the jigsaw leading to a formal implementation of the national agreement on the working week. At this point, the contractual obligations of teachers will be expressed simply in terms of a 35 hour week within which a maximum of 22.5 hours will be devoted to class contact. This is conditional on there being sufficient teachers in place to deliver the 22.5 hour weekly maximum class-contact time, the establishment of well-functioning national, local and school-based negotiating machinery, clear monitoring procedures at local LNCT level, the outcome of a sample workload survey referring to the feasibility of the 35 hour working week and the outcome of an evaluation of working arrangements at local level assessing the wider climate of collegiality in schools. This is a decision for the SNCT, but there would appear to be little likelihood of a determination that all of the objective conditions are in place at this stage and this is certainly the SSTA view. Our own survey of members highlights significant shortcomings in core areas such as the failure of school Working Time Agreements to limit and manage teacher workload enabling duties to be completed within a 35 hour week, the very variable impact of additional support staff in removing Annex E non-teaching duties from teaching staff and disappointing levels of collegiate working – there are clearly enormous differences from school to school even within the same local authority.

There remains a lot of work to be done both locally and nationally before we can consign our own battered copies of the SSTA TP 21 agreement to the recycling bin.

In his address to Congress last year, in the context of pupil behaviour and school discipline, Alan McKenzie encouraged members to “Tell it as it is” and many of you may have had just such an opportunity in late February / early March this year if you and your school had been selected as part of a representative sample to complete the National Survey on School Discipline questionnaire. This is part of a national survey of behaviour in schools in Scotland commissioned by the Scottish Executive, supported by teacher unions and COSLA and carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research by seeking the opinions of head teachers, teachers, non-teaching staff and pupils across the country with the aim of developing a greater understanding of the reality of pupil behaviour and discipline in Scottish schools.Although initial analysis and findings will not be available until mid-June and many teachers will question the need for yet more statistics to establish what every teaching professional already knows to be a serious, endemic and deteriorating problem in classrooms throughout the country, having corroborative research can't but strengthen our position in demanding resources and supportive measures to tackle the situation more effectively.

The SSTA has consistently maintained that the rights and educational opportunities of the co-operative and conscientious majority of our young people are being regularly

compromised by the actions of a small yet significant disruptive minority and nothing that has happened in the last few years has changed this view - if anything recent experience has consolidated these concerns.We must acknowledge and recognise that an increasing proportion of our young people have additional support needs, either physical, social, emotional or behavioural, and the principles underlying the educational inclusion initiative are readily accepted and worthy of our support. The daily realities in our schools of this drive for inclusion at all costs are not. Across the broad inclusion spectrum, initiatives that are well planned and organised, well supported and suitably resourced, well monitored and regularly reviewed and modified, have the greatest chance of success. There must, however, be a further criterion and that is an “implications for the majority test” and if there are significant negative effects identified then there has to be an admission of failure and alternative provision developed with the absolute minimum of delay. This is particularly so in the context of behaviour and indiscipline. Children and young people prefer to have clearly defined behaviour parameters and respond better, and indeed, are more comfortable when such fair and unambiguous guidelines exist. This is precisely why all schools have a classroom code of conduct incorporated into their wider discipline policy with escalating sanctions for repeated and serious breaches of classroom behaviour rules. No matter how well thought-out this code of conduct may be and how acceptable it may be to the majority of young people

in the school, it can be quickly discredited, rendered inoperable and almost worthless by a few pupils in any class who quickly and regularly reach the upper levels of the discipline system and for whom short periods of exclusion from class and ultimately from school itself pose little deterrent. The corrosive effect of such pupils being regularly recycled through the school's discipline system has a generally damaging effect on teachers' ability to maintain good class discipline, but equally damaging are the consequences of permanent exclusion on the life prospects of the individuals concerned. There has to be a much greater emphasis on the availability of alternative educational provision in such circumstances and at a much earlier stage than at the point of permanent exclusion – there are too many losers by then!! I turn now to the President's Award for the most consistently irritating phrase of the year, and although several contenders for this accolade spring to mind for me, one stands head and shoulders above all others: “gold-plated public sector pensions”. It seems that no debate on the future of pensions in the UK is ever complete without such a reference, however ill-informed or misleading. Comments of this nature contribute nothing positive or constructive, but do succeed in fomenting envy and indeed hostility towards public sector employees.

Teachers rightly have always held the view that the benefits of their pension scheme represent an element of deferred salary, and, to some extent, compensate for the generally lower salary levels available during their working lives compared to similarly qualified professionals in other career areas. Remember, too, that today's pensions relate largely to contributions made during the 1970s, 80s and 90s when salary levels in teaching were at times relatively worse than they are today.Teachers have faithfully contributed 6% of salary into a scheme rated safe - yes, with unspectacular benefits (half salary after 40 years); yes, gold-plated - no. Indeed, so unspectacular that in the 80s and early 90s teachers were besieged by insurance companies and financial advisers falling over themselves promising “wealth beyond rubies” for doing nothing more than opting out of the Teachers' Pension Scheme and into a money purchase scheme. How times have changed - as with the similar advice to ditch your dull repayment mortgage and to switch to an endowment mortgage, the promise of future wealth has disappeared like snow off a dyke. Safe final salary schemes, once dull and boring, are now gold-plated. We are grateful to have it pointed out to us that for all these years, we have had a gold-plated scheme without knowing it but not to be told that it is now too good and that it must be snatched away. I have little recollection of any call during the past 30 years for improvements to the Teachers' Pension Scheme to bring parity with the best “platinum-plated” private sector schemes.

I don't deny that there has been some scandalous treatment of groups of private sector workers who have seen company pension schemes being wound up and that final salary schemes have been closed by some companies, but why is it that public sector pensions should always be compared to the worst available in private industry and never to the best? And when, for once, public sector pensioners seem to be enjoying a fairer pensions deal does this bring such envy and hostility?As I look forward to my second year in office, I do so convinced that changes during the past year have enhanced markedly the capability of the Association to offer a professional service to professional teachers. The appointment of our two Professional Officers and the move to modern, more flexible office accommodation, will deliver clear and important longer-term efficiency and financial benefits. The SSTA remains a strong and vibrant organisation with a stable and healthy membership, but there can be no complacency about the future and we must be ready now to respond to the challenges presented by a significant number of member retirements over the next decade. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Aberdeenshire Council for the generous allocation of time during the past year. This has meant that it has been possible to minimise any conflict between Aberdeenshire District Secretary and Association President responsibilities and has done much to preserve my sanity – at least for another year!!ALBERT MCKAY

12 May 2006.

MOTIONS PASSED CONGRESS 12/13 MAY 2006

The following motions were approved at the Association's 62nd Annual Congress, 12-13 May 2006 , Hilton Coylumbridge, Aviemore.


EMERGENCY MOTION The Association welcomes the publication by Audit Scotland of “A Mid Term Report – a first stage review of the cost and implementation of the teachers' agreement ‘A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century'”, and commends the analyses which it provides.Congress deplores, however, the misleading inferences, being drawn from the report by certain commentators, which imply that ‘value for money' has not been delivered by the Agreement. Congress asserts that the Agreement, despite its acknowledged shortcomings, has brought about great improvements in the education system in Scotland for pupils, parents, teachers and the community.


That this Association continues to express its concern at the establishment of faculty arrangements in secondary schools in Scotland, and consequently demands that the Scottish Executive sets in motion an independent academic review of those arrangements and that the review findings be published widely to all interested parties.


This Association calls upon the Scottish Executive Education Department to commission an immediate study of the impact of the changing promoted post structures on support for those students undertaking Initial Teacher Education and Probationary Teachers attempting to achieve the Standard for Full Registration.


This Association expresses concern about the implementation of the Chartered Teacher programme, in particular, its inaccessibility to many teachers because of the self funding requirement. Congress calls on SEED to undertake a review of the programme's implementation to ensure, inter alia, its accessibility to all teachers who wish to consider undertaking it.


This Association affirms the right of all teachers who acquire statutory employment rights to benefit from all conditions of service which apply to teachers holding full time permanent posts.


This Association urges all interested parties to ensure that History is retained as a discrete subject in the curriculum offered at all stages within Scottish secondary schools.


The Association congratulates the Scottish Executive on their proposal to reduce class sizes in English and Maths to 20 in S1-2 and looks forward to their extending this to all subjects.


This Association condemns funding cuts in schools and the damaging effects of such cuts on learning and teaching.


This Association urges the Scottish Executive to help tackle the growing rise in obesity and other diet related illnesses in school children in Scotland by ensuring that basic food preparation skills form part of every young person's education from S1 to S6.


This Association reminds all Scottish local authorities of their duty of care to their staff. It is with alarm that the Association notes the number of teachers absent through stress related illness. Congress therefore calls on all local authorities to investigate industry-wide good practice to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to identify and support staff with such illnesses.


The Association commends the courage of teachers in Afghanistan who, at the risk of their own lives, continue to teach all young people in their communities regardless of gender. Congress calls on Education International to explore ways in which practical assistance may be rendered to our Afghan colleagues.

General Secretary's Report Congress 13/14 May 2005

General Secretary's Report Congress 13/14 May 2005

President, Colleagues, My text for today can be found in the 10th book of Bill Bryson, modestly entitled “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. For those of you who have read Bill Bryson's works, this magnum opus would have come as a bit of a shock. First of all, it is not a history book but a science book. Secondly, it is not the “book at bedtime” genre but a challenging read, to be ingested in a series of encounters over time. So to my preambulatory filibuster! In his quest to make science understandable to all, Bryson gives us gems of information and illustration as follows.

• Charles Darwin, a fan of exactitude, calculated that the number of worms to be found in an average acre of English Country soil was 53,797.

• An ancient pane of glass will be thicker at the bottom than the top due to the viscous nature of glass.

• Avogadro's number, which as you will all recall is 6.0221367 x 1023 can be illustrated as equivalent to the number of popcorn kernels needed to cover the USA to a depth of nine miles, or cupfuls of water in the Pacific Ocean, or soft drink cans that would, evenly stacked, cover the entire Earth to a depth of 200 miles. But perhaps most tellingly of all, he explains the laws of thermodynamics thus.“‘There are four Laws. The third of them, the Second Law, was recognised first; the first, the Zeroth Law, was formulated last; the First Law was second; the Third Law might not even be a law in the same sense as the others.' In briefest terms, the second law states that a little energy is always wasted. You can't have a perpetual motion device because no matter how efficient, it will always lose energy and eventually run down. The first law says that you can't create energy and the third that you can't reduce temperatures to absolute zero; there will always be some residual warmth. As Dennis Overbye notes, the three principal laws are sometimes expressed jocularly as

(1) you can't win,

(2) you can't break even, and

(3) you can't get out of the game.

” As an epithet for Scottish education, it could not be more appropriate. The sense of frustration and disappointment which many teachers feel is widely shared. The current trends for overanalysis of every waking moment, restating and reformulating methods and serial initiative creation have left us with a profession that genuinely believes that they “Can't win” and “Can't get even”. The “showcase” mentality is upon us and is now fully established throughout the system. Everything must be seen to be presented so as to have the greatest effect, not on the pupil, but on the beholder – HMI, local authority, media, the world and his brother. We have contemplated our collective navels to a degree well beyond anything that Bill Bryson has done in his book.Now, I will bow the knee to no-one in my eagerness to promote the excellent quality of education in Scotland. The talent of the teaching profession, the limitless potential of our young people's ability to achieve beyond all expectation are to be celebrated far and wide. The world wide reputation of our education system is rightly held. What I am condemning is not this, but the artificial striving after the wind which is the outcome of so much of the “showcase” mentality. Let's concentrate on actually doing what is good, what is effective, and not on how it looks to outsiders. What we need is consistency not meritocracy. Let's celebrate success without lining the selected up on stage to be lauded by the Daily Bugle and glad-handed by the glitterati. Let's celebrate success the Scottish way – praise from those whom the recipient respects, the quiet word, the encouraging challenge, and let's eschew the Hollywood approach. But what about the third dictum from the laws of thermodynamics – “You can't get out of the game”? Now you will all be ahead of me here – yes, it's the pension crisis. You are amongst the best informed people in the UK about what has happened in the last year. You have unequivocally rejected the proposed changes in line with your union's advice. Sadly, the rest of the world seems much less well informed than you are. Thanks to the rantings of the captains of industry, transmitted by the eager media, we are now to believe that teachers and other public sector workers enjoy gold plated pensions which are scarcely deserved as we do not create the wealth on which this country exists.You will remember these people – they are the ones who queued for hours outside the education offices in the 1970s to be allowed to get into teaching because of the gold plated pensions. Remember them in the Thatcher years demanding to be released from private industry to serve in the public sector? No? Neither do I! The reality is that when times are good, the public sector falls behind, and when times are bad, the public sector should bear the brunt of cuts in wages or pensions. We have nothing to be ashamed of. Our terms of engagement are clear and are an entitlement, not a concession. Not for us the annual bonus, profit sharing, share schemes, corporate benefits, incentives, discounted services – not in the public sector. What we do have are modest or low wages and a promissary pension scheme backed by the Government and fully funded by the contributions of employee and employer. This is “bog standard”, not “gold plated”. You have already shown in the ballot on industrial action just how concerned you are about the attempts to raise the retirement age to 65. Keep your powder dry and await developments.Turning now from the bad news to the good news: the Association continues to go from strength to strength, and there is no clearer evidence of this than our impending move to newer, larger and more usable premises. Later in the year we will move into a purpose built office block in Dalry Road which will provide us with almost double our existing working space. This move comes only 5 years after we extended our current offices to maximise use of space, and is a clear indication of how the growth of the Association from 6000 members and falling, to 9000 members and growing has expanded our work. The new offices will allow us once again to hold committee and training meetings within our own premises, to more effectively organise our work patterns, and gives us room to expand our work even further in future years.It has not been easy to find these premises and the path to obtaining the building has been fiendishly fraught, but the effort has been worth it and will pay dividends in future years. Our success, however, is not due to buildings but people and their efforts. We have not grown and expanded through sheer weight of numbers, either in membership or in representative bodies. Our growth has not come through being a monolithic block nor yet by trying to airbrush out our rivals.Our growth has come through being prepared to “tell it like it is” regardless of the implications. Our growth has come through being willing to focus on the needs of the individual member and by offering them direct support. Our growth has come through our public profile and our policies. Our growth has come through releasing the talents of our staff and our officials to allow them to multiply our efforts and effectiveness.All of this comes at a cost to those who thus dedicate themselves to the common good of the Association, and I want to pay tribute today to all of you who work so tirelessly to keep us where we are at the forefront of Scottish education. In particular, I want to single out our staff who have brought such added value to our overall work. Their willingness to acquire or display new skills, to work flexibly and to be responsive to change and crisis have allowed us to enjoy the most skilled workforce we have ever had available to us. Without them we could not provide the current level of service to officials and members. Looking ahead, however, we will have considerable challenges to meet. We will have to run hard to stand still in terms of membership, and to continue to grow will require further added effort. Whilst the level of union involvement amongst teachers has generally remained very high, this may not always be the case. With ever increasing numbers of new teachers set to replace those retiring over coming years, we may well have to demonstrate the relevance of unions to a new generation of Thatcher's children and we cannot take it for granted that they will respond to collective activity as we did. Indeed, recent voting trends seem to show that younger people are not as willing to turn out and vote at elections, but prefer to support issue-based politics such as anti-racism, fighting poverty and disease often, in part, through the identifying rubber wristlet. Will they be as willing to wear an SSTA wristlet in a fetching shade of blue – pantone 3145. The main force of persuasion will not be slogans, posters or giveaway gadgets, but the counsel of their more experienced peers. They will look to you to demonstrate that union membership is not only relevant, but vital. This will, of course, be an easier decision for them if certain trends in school and local authority management remain as they are. The other main challenge which will face us is the growing certainty of realignment within the trade union movement. Since I referred to this in my Report to you in 2004, significant changes have continued to take place. In the Further and Higher education sector, AUT and NATFHE have agreed to merge and are well advanced on the details of that process.More generally, the proposed merger of Amicus, TGWU and GMBU would create a supra-giant union well able to challenge other unions in the UK and, more importantly, able to challenge at global level. At the same time, the level of expectation amongst members about the extent and range of services offered to them by their union will continue to grow. The advent of 24 hour banking, shopping, health advice etc will have a spin-off effect on our work, and, indeed, already are having an effect as evidenced by the number of calls to the office in the evenings and at weekends.Add to this the likely change in the balance of teachers versus non-teachers in schools. This trend will see relatively fewer teachers and thus less of a market for us, whilst the non-teachers will be unable to join this Association. If we ignore this issue, we will create further difficulties for ourselves in coming years. All in all, we will require to take a long, hard look at our future to see how we can best position ourselves to meet and surmount these challenges. We need to begin this process now whilst we are in a strong and ascendent position. If we wait until the effects of the changes I have outlined are present rather than future tense, then we may be too late.We need to identify what is most important to us in our existence and see how we can best ensure that this remains fully and unrestrainedly available to our members in 15 years time and beyond. The methods and pathways through which we will achieve this are the problem for us to grapple with. The outcome is not a problem – it is a clear vision of a gathering such as this in 15 years time being able to do as we do now, and more. At the risk of becoming like a stuck record, I would repeat to you what I said to you in 2003 and again in 2004“There are many sound reasons for adopting professional unity, and moves towards this continue throughout the trade union movement. In the last year, however, I have never been more struck by the need for an independent voice amongst Scottish Secondary Teachers. If not us, who?” If we plan effectively now, then in 15 years time at a gathering such as this your successors will be able to listen to my successor delivering an equally upbeat message about the strength of this organisation.If we fail to take decisive action in the coming few years, then there is the clear prospect that there will be no such gathering in 15 years for your successors or mine to attend. This would extinguish the independent voice of secondary teachers, possibly forever. It is not a prospect I am prepared to contemplate, and not one that you are, I am sure, prepared to contemplate either.

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS - CONGRESS FRIDAY 13 MAY 2005

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS - FRIDAY 13 MAY 2005

“MAKING SCHOOLS WORK” Sometimes in rare opportunities of introspective reflection or when under the latest moment of crisis, one is impelled to ask the ultimate question of existentialism - WHY ARE WE HERE? Whether it is a question that creeps into your consciousness during an interminable committee meeting or when you are representing a member in school and everything seems to be going pear shape, it remains a critical question that lies at the heart of what I want to say to you today.Equally rare then is the opportunity to answer that question in a meaningful way, to somehow grasp an answer from some illuminating moment. Like yourselves, I have had a few illuminating moments in my life, some dramatic and some prosaic but all having that wonderful effecting of turning the light on in a dark room. It was a “Scotsman” headline this year that turned a light on for me. It followed the dramatisation of the events in the aftermath of the tragic Stephen Lawrence murder. The headline was simple. It was an exhortation for teachers to “TELL IT AS IT IS” because it was the failure of teachers to do this that created the problems for those trying to change the nature of Stephen Lawrence's school. This then, colleagues, is the principal theme of what I want to say today!I think for most of us the process of becoming a school rep was largely fortuitous. Few of us probably rushed into the front line. It was more a process of being pushed through the slip trenches and stumbling in semi-darkness into the front line trench. When there the learning curve had to be steep for very quickly does it become clear that the advice from the pushing colleagues that “you'll only need to open the mail” becomes the ultimate lie when you are faced with the multifarious nature of your member's problems. Yet whether you are a battle hardened veteran or a fresh faced newcomer, “telling it like it is” should be the most important imperative that you can adopt. So, bearing this in mind, can we begin by looking at pupil behaviour and discipline? Without doubt, this has been the single most important issue to present itself this year. There are those who would say that it is, for teachers, always the predominant issue in their lives. Thankfully, we have now established by dint of the palpable research of Pamela Munn that pupil behaviour has deteriorated in the last twenty years. This is a much more important statement than it sounds. For there are those who have claimed and still continue to claim that increasing pupil misbehaviour is some kind of myth, some kind of disingenuous teacher invention cooked up, distilled purposely to camouflage teacher indolence or incompetence. Well we know it is not a myth and we can have the confidence of research to prove it.Let's be clear colleagues, when it comes to pupil misbehaviour, we in the SSTA have been telling it as it is for many years now. That doesn't mean constantly saying that we are one minute from nuclear meltdown for that approach is simply not helpful. But the institutional fabrications, the eternal lying, the never-ending distortions that vomit from the mouths of the great and the good when they are pronouncing on the issue of pupil misbehaviour, these are entirely unacceptable also. Tell it as it is. Tell them about the failure of pupils to do homework without being given two or three opportunities; tell them about the failure to bring books, jotters, pens and pencils; tell them about all the corrosive low level stuff that grinds you down on a daily or even hourly basis. Tell them about the bare-faced cheek and abuse that you endure. Tell them about the violence, the real, actual violence as well as the threats of violence, the feelings of contrast physical intimidation that are always there for some of you. Tell them about the braying, insensate adolescent sub-culture, the drug taking, the alcohol abuse, the sexual promiscuity. Tell them that and tell them more. Tell them the whole truth and insist they listen. Many of the Press seemed to take great delight in February at that seemingly iconic moment when Ms Cathy Jamieson was framed in a photograph being interviewed on the subject of adolescent drinking. Now I'm sure that you shared my moment of empathy with Ms Jamieson. Here was a classic moment of adults involved in a serious discussion of a tragic issue and in the background is a gesticulating, disruptive adolescent ruining the moment. Could this not be a paradigm for virtually every classroom in the country: one idiot ruining everyone's chance!!!! Now I don't take any great pleasure from that moment. Actually, Ms Jamieson has my sympathy for at least she was trying to address a very real problem in her constituency. But isn't it interesting that once again this issue arose out of the wrong course of action being taken to address a problem. The problem is underage drinking and anti-social behaviour. The solution is to blame everyone except the neds involved: the manufacturers of one product; the suppliers of that product but not the consumers themselves. Now that resonates doesn't it. Is that not the root of the problem? It's never their fault, it's always our fault. Our fault that pupils don't do homework, our fault that they are late for class, our fault when they fail an examination, our fault when they don't adhere to dress code, our fault when they misbehave in class. Always our fault. This is not paranoia, this is a simple fact and what makes it more is that in the same breath, the great and the good witter on about the need for young people to take more responsibility for their own learning and their own behaviour. Who's kidding who? And who's kidding who when we hear about some of the solutions to adolescent misbehaviour. Try this one for size: one of the problems is that adults like ourselves, aging and out of touch, slipping seamlessly into senility don't understand the adolescent sub-culture that is such an important part of the lives of our pupils. Yes, that's right, it's us again, we're the problem and you've all wasted your breath in the last 35 years trying to influence young people to abandon their sub-culture! There you are, what appalling damage we've all done trying to introduce young people to the culture of Scotland, Europe, the World, when what we should have been doing was a wee bit of rôle reversal. We should been learning from them. We should have been understanding their cultural context. It's really all so simple if only we had done it!!! Now there's a blueprint for the future!! The truth is, there is, has never been and will never be a solution to this. But at least we can help by insisting in our schools that there is a problem. By not allowing the great and the good to talk this down, to minimise and to displace blame and transfer deteriorating behaviour in society to our problem. As a personal plea, I should like the Scottish Executive to indicate to our society just what behaviour should be acceptable in schools. Let's get some kind of lead from them and never mind all these codes of conduct that schools draw up which, let's be honest, have very little real status. What do the Executive think the people of Scotland expect in terms of behaviour or general demeanour from the young people who use the buildings and facilities for which they are paying? Now there's a challenge!!Colleagues, tell them as it is. We've always done that in this Association. We remember what pioneering work was done by our Education Committee in producing the ground-breaking policy document, “Diet and Learning”. It really is only now that people are realising how critical this aspect of achievement is and this Association was one of the first to campaign in this area. We continue to do that and, indeed, one of the motions proposed this year takes this issue even further forward. I should like to take the opportunity to commend the work of all of those in the Association who have taken this issue on. We will not give this up until we have achieved a climate where healthy eating is the norm for our young people and I personally rejoice as school after school rids itself of the stigma of profiting by selling our young people garbage. This bonfire of vending machines selling junk food is a beacon of common sense. Long may it shine! Congress, as I approach the end of my time as President of this Association, it is difficult to avoid looking back and reflecting on those who have influenced me and given me both the wisdom and strength to have performed the offices. Some of them like the great Alec Stanley who first persuaded me to get involved are tragically gone from us. Some, like David, Jim and Barbara are with us today. To them and to our wonderful office led by Lesley I cannot give enough thanks. Without them, the job of President would be impossible. But, at the end of the day, my greatest admiration is for our School Representatives whose rôle is so crucial in not only promoting this organisation but also, alluding again to our Congress theme, assisting in “making schools work”. Perhaps one of the greatest aspirations of Gavin McCrone's original report was that we achieve some measure of collegial working. I rather think the achievement of this is some way off but, in striving to achieve it, our school reps will have a crucial rôle in insisting that decision making in schools properly involve all colleagues, not just senior management teams. I'm sure that nobody will underestimate how difficult it will be to effect this. Nobody gives up their perception of “control” easily but now that “McCrone Committees” have been set up in schools, I believe the next step for us is to widen the work of those committees so that we engage with real decision-making in schools. Clearly our school reps will have to confront this difficult task and, I suspect, there will be many uncomfortable moments but the opportunity to take forward collegiality in our schools is a huge one and one from which we shall not shrink. “Tell it as it is”!Congress, last year in my address, I was anxious to try to cover as many current issues as I could. This year, I have concentrated on far fewer. There are other issues out there I know, but I do believe discipline, diet and the future of collegiate working represent the critical areas of future development. That future looks good for our Association which I believe is stronger than it ever has been. Increasingly membership, new ways of working and new premises all have contributed and will contribute to an organisation that will go on from strength to strength. It has given me great pride to serve as your President. Thank you all for your support and good luck to those who take over.

ALAN MCKENZIE

President

Motions Congress, 13-14 May 2005

The following motions were approved at Congress, 13-14 May 2005 , Peebeles Hotel Hydro.

MOTION A

This Association deplores the attempts being made by some Local Authorities to maximise class sizes and class contact time in an effort to make budget savings, whilst simply ignoring the 35 hour working week for teachers.

MOTION B

This Association requests that the Scottish Executive takes immediate action to ensure that all Scottish local authorities implement, as a matter of urgency, all provisions of Annex E to “A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century”, which should have been in place by 1 April 2004.

MOTION C

This Association congratulates those Scottish local authorities who have successfully committed themselves to improving the long-term health of pupils in Scotland's Secondary schools.This Association would also encourage the Scottish Executive to ensure that the necessary funding is deployed by all Scottish local authorities to ensure that high quality nutritional food is made available in all Scottish schools.

MOTION DCongress calls on the Scottish Executive to facilitate direct links between schools and colleges in Scotland and partner institutions in developing countries throughout the world. Such links would enable:• Fund raising and sponsorship on the part of Scottish establishments

• Curriculum links between schools and colleges

• Exchange visits

MOTION E

Congress welcomes the launch of the ‘One Scotland – Many Cultures' campaign and pledges to support it in order to tackle racism within Scottish Education and society.However, Congress is concerned that steps taken to promote antiracism in Scotland's schools are being undermined by the current asylum policies as they affect young people.

MOTION F

Congress calls on the Scottish Executive and Audit Scotland to investigate and report on the effectiveness and cost efficiency of the various formats of electronic pupil reports currently being used in Scotland's secondary schools.

MOTION G

The Association notes the proposals contained within the Curriculum Review Group Publication “A Curriculum for Excellence”. We also note, with great concern, that only 1 member of the Review Group is a practising secondary teacher. The Association calls on SEED to ensure that those involved in the implementation of the proposals are largely experienced, practising classroom teachers.

MOTION H

Congress congratulates the Scottish Executive for recognising that aspects of behaviour patterns amongst young people in the wider community have a major impact on behaviour patterns within secondary schools. Congress believes that there is no single or simple solution which can be implemented in order to effectively deal with all behaviour problems in schools. Congress affirms that policies directed at tackling the underlying socio-economic problems, which in part cause behaviour problems in schools, are to be welcomed as part of the solution, and reiterates that a properly resourced Guidance system in secondary schools is equally part of that solution.

MOTION I

In view of the announcement to instigate an Audit of the McCrone Agreement in the light of “Best Value”, this Congress demands that the Scottish Executive launches an identical audit to measure the amount of time consumed by the small minority of badly behaved youngsters impairing the learning process of the great majority of motivated and interested pupils.

MOTION J

Congress condemns those politicians and others who for their own ends seek to exaggerate the misbehaviour of young people in our communities whilst underplaying the extent of indiscipline within our schools and the impact that it has on staff and pupils. Congress therefore calls upon politicians and the media to adopt a realistic and consistent approach towards these issues.

MOTION K This Association believes that the management structures being imposed on secondary schools will cause immense and irrevocable damage to the education of current and future generations of children in Scottish schools. In consequence, the Association calls on HMIE to investigate the educational consequences of the changes to management structures and to report publicly on their findings.

MOTION L

This Association condemns any attempt to dilute the level of qualification required for eligibility to teach in secondary schools in Scotland. The Association affirms its commitment to a secondary curriculum delivered by specialist teachers qualified in the relevant secondary subjects and will resist by all possible means any attempt to dilute the level of qualifications required to teach in secondary schools.

MOTION M

This Association believes that the Jobsizing Toolkit has significantly failed to determine a realistic salary level for the promoted posts held by many teachers in Scotland. The SSTA demands that the SNCT institute an immediate and comprehensive review to address the shortcomings of the Jobsizing toolkit.

EMERGENCY MOTION – PENSIONS

This Association views with alarm the current proposals for teachers' pensions and commits itself to resist these proposals by all possible means including strike action.