Post of General Secretary

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association is Scotland's second largest teachers' trade union, serving the needs of secondary teachers throughout Scotland.

The Association seeks to appoint its most senior official following the retirement of the current post holder. The post is based in Edinburgh.

Candidates should be able to display leadership and innovation and have a genuine interest in education and the welfare of its practitioners. A background in trade unionism is desirable but not essential.

The post of General Secretary is subject to current arrangements as provided by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, and in particular s.46 whereby the holder of the post of General Secretary requires to be appointed only following (if necessary) a ballot of the membership. A ballot is not required where there is only one valid nomination. The post is subject to further balloting of members every 5 years under current legislation.

The new General Secretary would be asked to take up post as soon as possible in 2009 following the completion of this procedure. This is likely to be at the earliest in April 2009.

All applications must be made by post. An application pack, containing the application form, is available from Jim Docherty, Acting General Secretary, at the address below. Applications close at noon on 30 January 2009. Interviews will be held in Edinburgh in February 2009. The Acting General Secretary is also able to answer questions from candidates as to the nature of the post.

The salary for the post is £72,000 at 1 January 2009.

Report of the Accounts Commission: Improving the School Estate

SCHOOL ESTATE STRATEGY WORKING GROUP

Report of the Accounts Commission: Improving the School Estate

The SSTA would comment on the Report as follows.

Too little attention is given in the Accounts Commission Report to the concerns raised by those working in new and refurbished schools, the vast majority of which were built or adapted under some PPP/PFI initiative. The study accepts that these schools could generally "be better designed". The obvious question is "why did this happen?"

The report does accept (Recommendations Part 5) that Councils "should make sure they consult and involve school users at the design stages". This has not happened to an adequate extent. Until this consultation takes place, mistakes will continue to be made.

The SSTA has noted complaints from members relating to new build and refurbished schools which include constant repetition of the following:-

1. Rooms which are too small.

2. Totally inadequate ventilation to the extent that certain rooms cannot be used on warm summer days.

3. Corridors too narrow.

4. Too few teaching rooms (an appalling criticism).

5. "Minimum cost" criteria evident at all levels; basic design, range of accommodation and finishing being subject to particular criticism. Minimum standards are unacceptable: young people deserve better. Building for Excellence should be the watchword.

6. Lack of attention to "snagging" issues.

7. Schools occupied before work on them is complete.

8. Inadequate staff accommodation: in particular, no staffrooms and/or inadequate staff bases.

Items 1 and 2 are expanded upon later in this report:

The SSTA is delighted to assist in any programme which would lead to improvements in the current situation. It is totally clear that the quality of the new schools varies from the "very good" to the "poor". The "poor" should never have been allowed to occur.

In particular the SSTA would be delighted to make comment on the numbers and sizes of rooms in new build schools. If accommodation is inadequate, the new school is unfit for purpose from day one. In this regard, the SSTA totally rejects paragraph 160 of the report: there are no "local circumstances" to be taken into account. There are no variations across Scotland in this matter. Any room which is intended as a general teaching room should be designed on the basis of the number of pupils which might require to be accommodated and not the number which the authority or Scottish Government would like to see accommodated.

With regard to building design, a very significant number of teachers report rooms totally unfit for purpose in warm weather. Windows often cannot be opened to an extent to provide adequate ventilation. Portable air conditioning units are often suggested as a remedy. Where employed, they are generally inadequate and too noisy.

The SSTA strongly supports the use of Regulation to fix a minimum size to all types of teaching areas on the basis of the number of pupils to be accommodated. We would require the adoption of mechanisms to ensure the adherence to these Regulations. The SSTA recommends the new Regulations cover the design of schools. The Regulations would go beyond those currently provided consequent to the Health and Safety at Work Act. Additionally, these Regulations would lay down both minimum and maximum temperatures for all working areas in schools.

On behalf of the SSTA

James Docherty

Acting General Secretary

Industrial Action by other Employee Groups

In view of the industrial action by public sector unions on 20 August the following advice is offered to members.

1. HTs are likely to be viewed as "keyholders" and thus can be expected to open the school and close it at the end of the day.

2. On days of industrial action by other employee groups the employer has the right to be clear that no teacher is taking secondary action. Any member who is prevented from attending work on that day through illness should check what arrangements or requirements, if any, have been put in place by the employer. It should be noted, however, that an employee is not required to obtain a medical certificate to cover an absence of one day. The matter is clearly covered in the Handbook of Conditions for teachers (Part 2, section 6).

3. All health & safety requirements remain in force. In particular, if the designated first aid member(s) is/are not present then alternative arrangements should be made. The cleaning up of spillages of body fluids would require similar provision. Simply declaring a room out of use until cleaning can be effected would be a reasonable response.

4. Swimming pools should not be used if no life saving personnel are available.

5. Minimum temperature regulations still apply where school heating systems cannot be operated.

6. Children who require mobility assistance from support staff may require other arrangements to be made.

7. Members should avoid undertaking tasks which are clearly the duties of the colleagues taking industrial action e.g. general office duties including telephones. Such action could be highly inflammatory. As a simple rule: members should work normally. This might, however, involve certain tasks which would normally be carried out becoming impossible to perform.

8. If members are asked to undertake such work, they should politely decline. If members are instructed to undertake the work of others, they should ask for the instruction in writing. They should then immediately contact the General Secretary. On receipt of a written instruction to undertake such work members should again decline, state that a formal grievance will be raised and again contact the General Secretary.

9. If another union sets up a picket line (and it must be set up by the relevant union), members are asked to stop and listen politely to any case made. Members are advised, however, that they must cross the picket line. If they do not do so, they will lose one day's pay. It is also possible that such members may be judged as taking secondary action which is unlawful. While the Association does not accept this interpretation, it may be difficult to protect members who do not cross picket lines. It would not be a defence in such cases that the members state that they are working at home.

10. Further advice can be obtained from the General Secretary.

SURVEY ON INDISCIPLINE - MAY 2003

SURVEY ON INDISCIPLINE - MAY 2003

The results of the Associations survey of members on "Indiscipline in Schools" is now available. Copies of the report have been distributed to school representatives. Survey on Indiscipline 2003

HARASSMENT IN SCHOOLS CONDEMNED - 27 December 2003

HARASSMENT IN SCHOOLS CONDEMNED 

Harassment within Scottish Secondary Schools is on the increase says the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association.

“Harassment cases show the biggest upward trend among problems likely to be faced by Scottish secondary teachers. In 2003 the number of individual cases rose by over 40%. Only malicious complaints against teachers showed a trend approaching this figure” said David Eaglesham, General Secretary.

In giving reasons, he continued “Harassment often arises simply from the stress of the job but individual trends within harassment cases are also apparent. The gender cases (most clearly the bullying of junior female teacher by senior members of staff) continue to be the largest group. There seems, however, to be unfortunate trends in the harassment of more senior staff by juniors.

The clearest trend, however, has been in the harassment of staff by pupils and parents. In many of these cases, the mechanisms to protect staff are inadequate. There requires to be a greater involvement on the part of certain authorities in the protection of staff, both teaching and non-teaching. Many authorities will attempt to restrain parents who harass by the use of formal warnings in writing and this approach is to be commended. Some authorities, however, are far too reluctant to address such harassment. There is too much emphasis given to “rights” of parents and pupils and too little to the protection of employees.”

Mr Eaglesham continued by noting a recent SSTA decision relating to the training of senior staff. “It is clear that authorities, despite claims that they have in place procedures relating to harassment, need to do more. Harassment cases can be handled at school level only where senior managers are properly trained. The provision of a Harassment Policy alone is not enough.”

Further details from:David Eaglesham

General Secretary

27 December 2003