Members Bulletin - 14 December 2023

SSTA meeting with Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills

The SSTA led by President Stuart Hunter met Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills Jenny Gilruth in November to discuss Teacher Retention, Pupil Behaviour and Education Reform. The President was accompanied by Vice-President Monique Dreon-Gould, National Executive member Lynn Myles, and General Secretary Seamus Searson. The focus of the meeting was the retention of teachers, education reform and pupil behaviour.
The SSTA highlighted the impact of excessive workload demands together with poor pupil behaviour leading to low morale within the teaching profession. We pointed out that many experienced mid-career secondary teachers are, as a result, considering leaving the profession. Fearing more COSLA intransigence in upcoming 2024 pay negotiations, we also commented on COSLA’s role in the recent pay dispute which damaged morale and teachers’ public image. The SSTA sought support from Ms Gilruth to address teacher workload by helping to reduce bureaucracy, control Government and local authority priorities and address the pressure created by the ‘fear’ of inspections. We expressed concern over the delay in implementing the promised reduction of 90 minutes of class contact time, and the lack of progress of ‘Lead Teachers’ in schools – both of these must regarded as lost opportunities in rebalancing the profession.
The SSTA welcomed the pausing of education reform to allow an opportunity for engagement with teachers but reported that many schools, despite the Cabinet Secretary’s letter, had not allocated time for discussion.

We outlined our view that the replacement body for Education Scotland must prioritise support for teachers, develop curriculum materials, clarify standards, build on good practice, and develop networks of subject specialists and other specialist education groups. The SSTA argued for a reformed inspection regime in which local authorities are inspected, and which delivers guidance for teachers and helps develop schools. We also stated that a replacement body for SQA must accept the need for qualifications which reflect a broad curriculum encompassing vocational education and awards qualifications. Rather than feeding the overuse of ‘Insight’ as a measure of a school’s success, which can be detrimental to pupils, there needs to be a broader acknowledgment of pupil achievement.  Because current education and assessment organisations lack any true relationship with teachers, and appear oblivious to the needs of pupils, teachers, and schools, it was emphasised that new organisations must have teachers and teacher unions front and centre.
With the findings in the SSTA behaviour survey, along with very similar findings in other recent surveys, there is no way of ignoring the issue of deteriorating conditions in secondary schools. The SSTA stated that the decline in pupil behaviour was evident long before the pandemic and that the pandemic was not the catalyst. Prior to year-on-year reductions schools were a ‘safe’ place for pupils and staff, but recent behaviour surveys have demonstrated that, in too many schools, classrooms and communal areas now feel (and often are) a lot less safe.  Teachers need serious support with the increasing challenges arising from poor pupil behaviour. The SSTA was pleased that, with three pupil behaviour summits, the Cabinet Secretary has committed to addressing poor pupil behaviour in secondary schools.   We hope that the pupil behaviour summits have a serious impact and positive outcomes in schools. Cuts in education staff over several years, the lack of subject PTs, pastoral and ASN staff have all contributed to the situation teachers face in secondary schools. The SSTA urged more support for pupils who find mainstream settings challenging and more support for classroom teachers through an increase in staff.

SNCT Pay 2024-2025

Teacher pay will increase by 2% for most teachers with a £1,600 increase for those teachers earning above £80,000 in January 2024. A new annual pay date for pay increases has moved from April to August as part of the last pay agreement. The SNCT Teachers’ Side will meet in January to determine the pay claim for 2024-2025. The SSTA Salaries and Conditions of Service Committee considered that claim at its last meeting and will be proposing an increase in line with the rate of inflation plus an additional 2% restoration payment for all teachers at all pay grades. Expectations that teachers must complete all tasks, and employers’ inability to contain and reduce workload, mean that teachers feel a professional duty to work excessive hours. The SSTA will be seeking serious consideration of overtime payments for teachers beyond the contractual 35-hour week. Employers must acknowledge the extra ‘free’ overtime and we believe it is only fair that teachers are appropriately paid. The SSTA claim will be considered with the claims from other teacher unions at a meeting in January where an agreed pay claim will go to the employers.

Additional Support for Learning (ASL) in Scotland ConsultationThe Scottish Parliament’s Education, Children and Young People Committee has agreed to undertake an inquiry into Additional Support for Learning (ASL). The Parliamentary Committee  wishes to know people’s experiences of how services are provided. They want to hear views from a range of people including parents, teachers, support staff, carers, pupils and organisations. The questions include:

  • Implementation of the presumption of mainstreaming
  • For children with additional support needs, in your experience: levels of support
  • Impact of COVID-19 on additional support for learning 
  • The use of remedies as set out in the Act

The SSTA Additional Support Needs (ASN) Committee is preparing a response to the Scottish Parliament’s consultation but would encourage members to make their own submissions.  The call for views closes on 31 December 2023. More information, and the consultation, can be found on the link Your views on Additional Support for Learning (ASL) in Scotland - Scottish Parliament - Citizen Space

Education Bill Consultation  ****** REMINDER Closing Monday 18 December ******

The SSTA has welcomed the decision by the Cabinet Secretary to take further time to consider education reform to allow teacher engagement on a programme of change that is thoroughly considered and will give a degree of certainty to teachers, pupils, and parents in the future. The SSTA will be making representations with the Scottish Government at various forums but would like to encourage members to be aware of the consultations.

The Scottish Government launched a consultation on the Education Bill to seek further views on a new qualifications body to replace the SQA, along with views on changes to education inspection in Scotland. The consultation will close on Monday 18 December.

The SSTA will be making a submission would encourage members to make their own submissions. More information, and the consultation, can be found on the links Education Reform: A Consultation on the provisions of the Education Bill - Scottish Government consultations - Citizen Space or Education Bill provisions: consultation