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


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”.



SSTA Press Release - Mobile Survey 2024 - Summary.pdf

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”.


Education Cuts by Stealth are Hurting Children and Teachers

Seamus Searson SSTA General Secretary said.

“Many local authorities have embarked upon a campaign of education cuts by removing education support staff in schools or not replacing them when they leave. This leaves an additional burden upon the teachers in schools who are expected to cover the work of the staff who are no longer there. Education support staff were appointed for essential educational purposes to remove this vital support by stealth is to fail the children and classroom teachers. Unfortunately, it does not end there we are hearing of local authorities delaying or refusing to employ supply teachers to cover gaps left when teachers have moved to another post, go on maternity leave and to cover sick teachers. We are told there is a shortage of teachers, yet we are told by our supply teachers they are not getting appointed to council supply registers and are unable to get regular work. This all puts more pressure on the teachers left behind and it is no wonder we hear that teachers are looking to leave that will only be to the detriment of our children in schools now”.

“The most important part of a schoolteachers’ job is teaching their classes and ensuring that every child’s learning improves. If you ask any teacher ‘what is the best part of being a teacher?’ they would all say that being in the class teaching their pupils. Teachers are leaving the profession due to the ever-increasing pressures from outside the classroom to produce paper and statistics for headteachers, parents, Council Officers, Education Scotland Inspectors, and the Scottish Government. All this so these bodies can prove that they are doing their job. Not at any stage does anyone ask, ‘Is this a good use of teacher time and does this improve teaching and learning?’

“The local councils must value and protect teachers, this underhand way of saving money is disrespectful to teachers and the children they teach. Unfortunately, the local authorities saw the recent teacher industrial action and the failure to delay or not replace teacher vacancies, teachers on maternity leave or on sick leave as valuable money saving exercises.”  

Glasgow Council is a good example where it removed all their attendance officers when pupil absences were increasing with the expectation that teachers would just cover the work. A Glasgow SSTA member said.

".. the responsibility of pupil attendance, the bureaucracy and ‘paper trail for paper trail’s sake’ has just landed with the teacher and is getting beyond a joke. We are being made accountable for every child’s attendance and this work expected on top of our classes/remits/curriculum etc. There is a lack of time, resources, education support staff, a lack of mental health care, for us but we are being made to create reams of paperwork – in the knowledge that nothing will come of it. We are expected to take on every job that Glasgow Council has taken away. We are to become Educational Psychologists (we have to do all their paperwork, even though we are not qualified to analyse it), School Nurse, Attendance Officer, Social Worker, etc. I am sad to say this is pushing me away from a job I love but for my own well-being I will be looking away from teaching”.

Stuart Hunter SSTA President said.

“Teacher’s time is finite, yet tasks placed upon them are taking them further and further away from teaching and learning. Teachers must be instructed to focus upon the most important task of teaching children. All these additional tasks and duties must be placed against a very simple criterion ‘Will this task enhance my teaching?’ If not, it should be left undone or if it is important, undertaken by ‘someone else’.  Unfortunately, the someone else in schools has nearly all but disappeared. Local authorities have been forced into saving money over several years. However, choosing to save money by failing to replace Education Support staff is a clear choice by Local Authorities to place the additional burden on all the teachers left behind, taking them further away from the core job of teaching and learning. The SSTA says Let Teachers Teach and the children will be the winners”.

“The demands placed upon teachers is excessive and teachers need to protect themselves from being worn down and bunt out. The SSTA advises all members to focus on teaching and learning and not to take on tasks that do not require the skills and expertise of a teacher. The SSTA is always ready to support members from bureaucratic burdens to reduce workload and recognise the most important task of teaching”.


26 October 2023


SSTA Commends Pupils and Teachers

The SSTA commends all pupils and teachers for all their hard work in overcoming all the difficulties created by the pandemic to record results in this year’s national qualifications.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary, said:

“Pupils should be pleased with their hard work, which has shown a determination to succeed. As they receive their results, we congratulate learners stepping forward in their educational journey”.

“Secondary teachers have worked above and beyond their obligations to ensure that no pupil has been disadvantaged by the pandemic’s impact on their education. Teachers have maintained their focus on pupil attainment. With ever-increasing workload this has often been at the expense of teachers’ own health and wellbeing.”

“The SSTA has serious reservations about 2024 qualifications.  We anticipate considerable pressure being placed on pupils and teachers due to the SQA’s insistence that all national qualifications return to pre-pandemic arrangements next year. On the one hand, the SQA accepts that there have been difficulties in 2023, but on the other hand denies it is an issue.  While the school system continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic, and to help protect teachers and learners, the SSTA is continuing to urge the SQA to adopt a phased return to full requirements.”


Secondary Teachers Tell SQA To Think Again

The SSTA conducted a survey of members delivering national qualifications following the SQA announcement that National Qualifications course assessments in session 2023-24 will return to full requirements – including reinstating coursework and exam assessment and the National 4 added value unit. The majority of SSTA members are opposed to the change with only 19% wanting a return to the pre-pandemic arrangements.

Seamus Searson, General Secretary said

“The SSTA survey has shown that SQA must go back and reconsider its decision when pupils and teachers are still in the process of education recovery. To reintroduce pre-pandemic exam arrangements in 2024 when teachers say that only 12% pupils are ready is foolhardy by an organisation that is oblivious of the realities in secondary schools”.

“The damage to pupils’ learning and the task for teachers in trying to bridge the gap cannot be underestimated, and to make more changes to qualifications when the whole qualification system is about to change requires the SQA to think again. Members are concerned about the wellbeing of their pupils and the immeasurable workload demands on a profession that is already ‘on its knees’. The SQA needs to listen to the teachers who are in schools everyday trying to support pupils and deliver the national qualifications. I challenge the SQA to engage with the profession and consider the findings of the SSTA survey”.

“68% of members said no to a return of pre-pandemic arrangements with only 19% supporting a return SSTA members in favour of return to pre-pandemic SQA arrangements. However, many members sought a phased return over a number of years allowing time for preparation of materials and restructuring of courses in addition of time for upskilling their pupils”.

The largest resistance to the SQA proposals came from teachers delivering higher qualification with up to 91% in some subjects. 

Modern Studies91%
Art and Design85%
Modern Foreign Languages85%
Religious Moral Education79%
Home Economics69%
Technological Education64%
Physical Education59%
Computing Science56%
Business Education44%

“The survey highlighted the range of resistance to the SQA imposition between different subjects and at different national qualification level. Only 30% of members saw the benefit of reintroduction of measures as a benefit at National 4 whilst only 15% sought a return at Higher”.

  • 30% - National 4

(45% PE and Maths, 44% Business Ed, and 42% Computing Science)

  • 26% - National 5

(51% Maths, 49% Business Education, 44% PE and 42% Music)

  • 15% - Higher

(44% Business Ed, 32% PE and 27% Technological Ed)

  • 18% - Advance Higher

(29% Business Ed, 26% Physic, 25% English, and 23% Art & Design)

“71% of teachers said that their pupils would need a lot or a great deal of support to be able to meet the requirements of the pre-pandemic arrangements. In addition, 76% said that increase in teacher workload would go up a lot or a great deal. This is a situation that cannot be ignored and I hope the Scottish Government will intervene and protect our pupils who already struggling and teachers that have no capacity to meet these imposed changes”.


Please note: the SSTA survey received 2120 responses.


  1. Subject and Qualification Level response
  2. Members Response to Survey Questions
  3. Selection of members comments by subject

Teachers Face “Aggression Epidemic”

The SSTA Additional Support Needs and Education Committees organised a members’ consultative survey to assess the increasing evidence of disruptive pupil behaviour in secondary schools. 2478 members responding to the survey.
The survey revealed both the extent of verbal and physical aggression being faced by teachers in Scottish secondary schools as well as systemic failures to address these issues.
While facing verbal aggression at work would be uncommon in most occupations, 75% of secondary teachers reported having experienced verbal aggression in the past year. Indeed, even more seriously, 1 in 8 secondary teachers reported that they had been physically assaulted at work over that period. Perhaps it is not surprising that 75% of secondary teachers reported not feeling safe at work.
At the same time, the extent of violence against teachers may not be fully appreciated by Local Authorities as only a third of those secondary teachers who had been assaulted went on to complete a Violent Incident Form or equivalent. From comments provided, it appears that this may be due to a deep level of scepticism over whether officially recording Violent Incidents makes any difference in practice, while other comments suggest that some teachers had been actively discouraged from completing them by senior management.
Similarly, while most people assaulted at work would think it appropriate to report such incidents to the Police, only 4% of teachers who had been assaulted at work took that route. Teachers reported not doing so for a variety of reasons, ranging from fear the police would not take the reports seriously, to concerns it would not help the situation. Pupils over the age of 12 have reached the age of criminal responsibility and can be charged with offences, including assault, but many teachers – even when victims – did not wish to see this happen.
Schools continue to have the legal power to exclude pupils for seriously unacceptable behaviour but there is pressure from government and local authorities to see a fall in the usage of short-term exclusions, especially for care-experienced young people. Official figures confirm that there has been such a reduction in recent years but, of course, this does not mean that less incidents of seriously unacceptable behaviour are occurring – merely that less of those incidents are resulting in short-term exclusions being applied. The survey provided some evidence to support this belief in that two-thirds of teachers reported that pupils who had committed verbal or physical aggression against them were returned to their classes before the matter had been resolved.
Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary, was scathing in his response to the findings stating :
“This survey has provided clear evidence of an aggression epidemic sweeping through our schools which has left many teachers feeling unsafe at work and unsupported by employers who have a legal duty to ensure their health and safety”.
“No teacher should have to go to work worried in case they will be a victim of verbal aggression or even assault that day. School managements must ensure that appropriate actions are taken in response to violence and verbal aggression against staff, including properly risk assessing pupils with a propensity for violent outbursts before any decision is taken to return those pupils to their classes.”

strike action word or concept represented by wooden letter tiles

SSTA to Take Two Further Days of Strike Action

The SSTA National Executive has, following another failed SNCT negotiating meeting, authorised two days of strike action on Tuesday 28 February and Wednesday 1 March. The SSTA will be joining members of sister unions in national strike action in a coordinated campaign of industrial action.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said.

“The SSTA has taken a measured approach to industrial action due to the impact it would have on the pupils preparing for exams. The deliberate inaction of the Scottish Government and COSLA just shows the lack of respect and level of contempt, not only for teachers, but for the pupils they teach, forcing teachers to take more strike action. The Scottish Government and its accomplice COSLA are failing education, having deliberately refused to put any new money on the table since August last year”.

“The Scottish Government and COSLA were adamant during the pandemic that schools needed to be kept open and education needed to be continued regardless of the risks and dangers that teachers were placed in. These are the same people who have allowed this pay dispute to continue, see schools closed and pupils’ education disrupted. How can these people sit on their hands and seek compromise when they have refused to make any movement in five months?”.

“How many more times are teachers to hear the same old rhetoric ‘we value teachers, and we are putting together a new offer’ only for another week to pass without a penny being put on the table. The SSTA has no option but to step up its industrial action”.

Catherine Nicol, SSTA President said.

“Teacher unions are standing together and, with the support of the public and parents, we will succeed. However, we urge parents and members of the public to help by demanding action from the First Minister and Councils and get teachers back to school teaching”.

“Teachers have been propping up the education system for years by working many more hours a week than they are paid for and this goodwill is running out due to the arrogance of the employers and government who appear to want to break teachers resolve. I can assure them teachers are standing firm to get a fair pay settlement. Teachers need to say ‘No to Free Overtime’ and demand a salary that will retain and recruit teachers for the future”.


Press Release – For Immediate Release

6 December 2022


SSTA members are to go ahead with strikes in secondary schools across Scotland on Wednesday 7 December and Thursday 8 December. Most secondary schools will be closed with some partially open to senior pupils although these schools may have difficulties as some of these pupils may be left unsupervised whilst in the school building.

Seamus Searson SSTA General Secretary said

“The employers (COSLA) and the Scottish Government has failed to contact the SSTA since 22 November to avert the strikes taking place this week. The proposed SSTA strikes are having an impact by causing confusion in many local authorities in trying to keep schools open. SSTA members are taking part in the strike this week to send a hard message to the employer and Scottish Government that teachers demand to be respected and receive a professional salary that will act to retain teachers in Scottish schools”.

“Hopefully, the employers and the Scottish Government will understand that all teacher unions in Scotland are united in seeking a fair and reasonable pay settlement and there needs to be a willingness to solve the pay dispute. The latest offer was quickly rejected by the teacher unions and was deliberately divisive and inadequate. This apparent show of contempt to teachers by this offer has hardened the resolve of members and forced the SSTA to take the strongest form of action”.

“For many SSTA members this will be the first strike they will have taken part in, and this action will have caused a great deal of anxiety not only for themselves but for the pupils they teach. The SSTA can only apologise to the pupils and their parents who are stuck in the middle of a dispute that should have been resolved in months ago (April 2022). Teachers do not want to be taking strike action as they would rather be in school teaching”.

“The SSTA as always is willing to meet at any time with the employers and Scottish government to find a resolution to this dispute but there must be willingness to engage on the part of the other side”.


Notes For Editors

A summary of the strike dates by Local Authority are noted below.

Wednesday 7 December 2022Thursday 8 December 2022
Argyll and ButeAberdeen, City of 
Dumfries and GallowayAngus
East AyrshireAberdeenshire
East DunbartonshireClackmannanshire
East RenfrewshireDundee City
Eilean SiarEdinburgh, City of
Glasgow, City of East Lothian
North AyrshireMidlothian
North LanarkshireMoray
OrkneyPerth and Kinross
RenfrewshireScottish Borders
South AyrshireWest Lothian
South Lanarkshire 
West Dunbartonshire 

Home Economics is disappearing from Secondary Schools

The SSTA conducted a school representative survey to gauge the situation of home economics and home economic teachers in secondary schools across Scotland. The survey was completed by 190 school representatives (53% of secondary schools).

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said “Home economics as a subject is at serious risk of disappearing from secondary school timetables due not only to the shortage of home economics teachers but by the lack of support by local authorities and headteachers”.

“How this can happen whilst home economics is vital in the current climate of improving health, sustainable food and budgetary issues for the family. These three areas form a huge part of the subject, that can offer so much to young people to improve the future health and sustainability of the Scottish population”.

“The SSTA survey found that 93% of secondary schools have home economics on the timetable whilst 7% do not offer home economics at all. In addition, 37% of schools have seen a reduction in the number of HE teachers in the last three years and should this trend continue the subject will soon disappear”.

“Home economics is an essential part of the school broad based curriculum but pupils experience is variable across Scotland. This is highlighted in the amount of time allocated to the subject at different stages of the school. For example, pupils’ experience of home economics in S1 varies from 9% having no contact with the subject, with 45% having one hour a week, 44% having two hours a week and 6% receiving more than two hours a week.

“This inconsistency is replicated throughout each of the year groups in schools. It is no wonder that the subject is struggling and I am sure the Scottish Government and local authorities are unaware of the unfairness taking place in schools across the country. It is time that the situation of home economics is acknowledged and addressed by those who have the power to make changes. Headteachers must be given the financial support and encouragement to ensure the future of home economics in our secondary schools”.

As one member said “Totally shocked that this subject has been killed by both school Headteachers and Local Authorities who are more worried about saving money rather than enriching their children’s educational experience”.

Seamus added “Home economics has been for far too long regarded as the ‘poor relation’ in the school curriculum. It has been often regarded as ‘less important in the rush for high exam success’ or ‘too expensive to provide’ in terms of teacher time and financial resources. This often shows the lack of understanding by those who are supposed to be the guardians of a broad balanced curriculum. They often talk a good game but discriminate against the subject and those who teach it who are predominantly female”.

Home Economic teachers and technicians are not replaced when they leave and this only puts excessive pressure on those teachers left behind. Teachers are expected to not only carry out the same responsibilities as other subject teachers but also to make the preparations for lessons without any additional support. The SSTA survey showed that 43% of HE teachers did not have any technician/auxiliary support and, for those who did, it varied from half a day to full time support. Equally 31% of teachers have seen this support reduce in the last three years”.

Another member said “I'm sure I speak for a lot of HE teachers when I say that trying to teach a full timetable of 27 periods per week as well as ordering food, preparing it, doing laundry, filling up soap, paper towels etc as well as the decrease in behaviour and respect is taking its toll on many HE teachers. I am personally on my knees and my mental health is suffering terribly”.


The SSTA Congress in Crieff this week will call for a major change to the way home economics is viewed in Scottish schools.  The SSTA Congress Motion (13 May 2022) presented by the SSTA Salaries and Conditions of Service Committee

Congress is alarmed by the inconsistent approach by Local Authorities to the place of Home Economics in the curriculum and the failure to ensure that all pupils at all ages in secondary schools have their entitlement to Home Economics fulfilled.

Congress notes the findings of the recent SSTA survey on Home Economics which highlights the excessive workload expected of Home Economics teachers which is often ignored by Local Authorities. There is a concern that this suggests discrimination of these specialist and predominantly female teachers.

Congress calls upon the Scottish Government for

  1. a major review of Home Economics and its place in the curriculum
  2. a major recruitment programme for Home Economic teachers
  3. trained technician support for HE
  4. a commitment at SNCT to ensure that Home Economics teacher workload is recognised, and measures adopted to ensure that the exploitation of HE teachers ceases.


Enc:     Appendix A – SSTA Rep Survey

            Appendix B - Comments from members

Further information from:

Seamus Searson
General Secretary

Survey image

SSTA Survey - Alternative Certification Model (ACM) – May 2021

The SSTA conducted a survey in response to the high numbers of members raising concerns regarding the Alternative Certification Model (ACM) and its impact on teachers and their pupils.

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said

“The SSTA received 1711 responses which gave a clear indication of the difficulties teachers and pupils are facing in trying to deliver the ACM.

“The SQA is in its ‘own world’, oblivious to the real situation in schools. It has shown little understanding of the situation in schools and the damage it is doing to pupils and teachers. The SQA’s focus is continuing to ‘fiddle while Rome burns’.

 “The collecting of evidence demanded by SQA in such a short time period, without making any allowance for the disruption caused by the pandemic, is putting a heavy burden on teachers and pupils. 96% of teachers said that the collection, marking and moderation of evidence has created substantial additional stress/pressure for them. 92% of teachers also said that the ACM process has created substantial additional stress/pressure for their pupils”

“More worryingly, only 36% of members believed that the evidence that they have collected truly demonstrated their pupil’s attainment. This highlights the potentially high number of pupils who will get grades lower than would have been expected in a normal year”.

 “The SQA’s focus on collected evidence, which doesn’t adequately take into account the disruption in schools, will lead to a large number of disillusioned young people and very unhappy parents”.

“The SQA must change its stance and allow the flexibility for teacher professional judgement, in addition to the collected evidence, to ensure all young people achieve the results that they deserve”.

SSTA Headteachers members have said

“No proper Headteacher representation on the NQ2021 group to talk about the actual operational actions that they have asked us to do – clearly no one on that group has had recent or living school experience”.

“This whole ACM has been a nightmare of stress for both staff and pupils. I have visibly seen the stress on the faces of my staff and the pupils. This has been the worst, most pressurised time of my whole career”.
Attached:         Appendix A - Survey Results
                        Appendix B - Selection of Members Comments