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INDUSTRIAL ACTION BY OTHER TRADE UNIONS

The SSTA has been advised that there will be industrial action by education support staff unions next week in many local authorities. It is unlawful for any member of the SSTA to take industrial action where the SSTA has not given specific notice to the employer advising that action will be taken.
 
Where members of another STUC-affiliated trade union are involved in industrial action, SSTA members should:

  • report for work as normal
  • set appropriate work for classes timetabled for the day
  • not accept any variation to their contracted duties and/or undertake duties or other responsibilities of those involved in the strike
  • regard time gained on the day as additional planning, preparation and correction time, NOT as additional ‘Collegiate’ time

Should the decision be taken to close the school, staff not involved in strike action should report to work or remain at home if directed by the headteacher. If the school closes SSTA members should not suffer any salary deduction. Members who have unexpected caring responsibilities because of the planned industrial action should be encouraged to work from home.

Picket lines

Where a union taking strike action establishes a picket line, refusal to cross it would render a teacher who is not a member of a union taking strike action liable to disciplinary action, including the deduction of salary, as it would be considered as participating in unlawful industrial action.

The single exception to this is where there are genuine grounds to believe that crossing the picket line would put the person concerned at risk of injury. In these circumstances, SSTA members should contact the headteacher, an appropriate senior person in the school or an appropriate person in the employing authority, if the headteacher is not available.

They should also contact SSTA Head Office to advise what has taken place and to seek further advice or support. Members are asked to stop and listen politely to any case made then cross the picket line having assured those picketing that they will not undertake work those on strike would normally have carried out.

Please note: SSTA is NOT taking industrial action and any change to the working practices may be seen as an attempt to undermine the lawful industrial action of our colleagues in other trade unions.

"Time and Place" on Days of Industrial Action by Other Unions

There have been suggestions from certain authorities that they are entitled to suspend the terms of the Handbook of Conditions in relation to "Time and Place" (T&P) on a day when pupils are not in school because of industrial action by non-teaching unions. The Association rejects this view and advises members as follows.

The right to T&P is contained in paragraph 3.7 of Part 2 of the Handbook. It is not subject to suspension at the whim of the employer.

Any teacher who might have been able to make use of the T&P arrangement on a normal teaching day may continue to do so (but subject to the caveats below). It is not the case that the teacher can maintain that the whole day is subject to T&P in such circumstances. It is only the time that the teacher would normally have T&P available which can be used. This point is most important: the Association makes use of the "normal day" argument in other cases to the benefit of members (and hence must accept the concept in this instance).

However, there is an important caveat. We are party to an agreement that we work in a collegiate environment. The pattern of a working day when pupils do not attend is well established. There are additional Departmental Meetings, whole staff meetings, work in departments, development work etc. If a teacher were to use the T&P arrangement during the time which might otherwise be used for a whole staff meeting, the point of having the meeting is lost: some teachers might not attend. In such circumstances, a negotiated agreement as to the use of the day is quite permissible. It might be noted that on such days staff very generally leave early by agreement (which might be regarded as a transferred T&P arrangement).

It is essential that any such arrangement is agreed and not imposed. The agreement might be at LNCT, JCC or at appropriate meeting at school level (SNC etc).

 If there is any attempt to impose a "suspension" of T&P, members should immediately submit a grievance (which might be collective). The General Secretary would advise on this. In such cases, we maintain the status quo arrangement viz we revert to the conditions applying prior to the dispute and hence members can use T&P subject to the above advice. It is all the more important therefore for any authority or headteacher to negotiate on the matter well before the day in question. The Association notes that anything else (including an attempt to impose a suspension) would be a significant violation of the collegiality concept which would rightly cause members to withdraw co-operation in a significant number of areas.
 
Further advice can be obtained from the SSTA Head Office

Members' Briefing

SSTA Members Briefings – September 2023

The SSTA has arranged a series of in-person members briefings in September.
 
Seamus Searson the SSTA General Secretary would like to meet with SSTA members to discuss the issues that face secondary teachers.  This will include the Qualifications and Assessment Review, the Pupil Behaviour Summit and Teacher Health and Wellbeing. This is your opportunity to have your say.
 
Stuart McCullough, Independent Financial Adviser from L-life Ltd will also be giving a presentation on the changes to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. This will concentrate on “The Remedy” and the impact that the Sergeant and McCloud court case has had on your pension benefits, the choices that you will have to make and when you will have to make them. Stuart will also provide a demonstration on how to use the Remedy Calculator on the SPPA website to help you calculate your expected pension benefits.

The briefings will start at 5.00pm and will be repeated at 7.00pm on each date.

LocationVenueDate
Dundee Invercarse Hotel05 September 2023
Aberdeen The Station Hotel06 September 2023
Inverness Leonardo Hotel07 September 2023
Edinburgh SSTA Headquarters12 September 2023
Glasgow DoubleTree by Hilton Glasgow Central13 September 2023
Ayr Mercure Ayr Hotel19 September 2023

Please visit the Events page on the SSTA website and select the briefing you would like to attend and complete the registration form to book your place.

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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.”

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CORNMARKET INSURANCE SERVICES

We are pleased to announce that the SSTA has reached an agreement with Cornmarket Insurance Services to be our general insurance provider. The SSTA has been seeking a provider that would be able to provide a comprehensive beneficial service to members. Cornmarket has worked alongside other teacher unions and prides itself on the level of service it provides for individual teachers.

If you are looking for car, home, motorbike or travel insurance, we would encourage you to make contact with Cornmarket as a good place to start. As an introductory offer, you can be entered into a competition to win a Nextbase 622GW Dash Cam by registering your insurance policy renewal date(s) before the end of August 2023.

Futher information on Cornmarket and the introductory offer can be downloaded as PDF. Don’t miss out on this new service and any other exclusive offers that members can avail of.

Win the Nexbase 622G Dash Cam!

Cornmarket Insurance Services have been looking after the general insurance needs of educational professionals for over 30 years. The SSTA have recently appointed Cornmarket as our official insurance partner so that you can benefit from the offers and range of insurance policies for your car, home, motorbike, GAP and travel needs.

Visit the Cornmarket website to view the products available and get a quote.

Cornmarket Car Insurance

Members Update -  June 2023

Education Reform – the views of teachers will be key to Scotland’s education reform journey”.

With the publication of the ‘All Learners in Scotland Matter’ and ‘It’s Our Future’ reports, Jenny Gilruth MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills said, “the views of teachers will be key to Scotland’s education reform journey”. The Cabinet Secretary has asked all schools to provide opportunities to engage teachers at the in-service days in August as most secondary school teachers have only had a limited, if any, involvement in the process. It is expected that all schools will prepare suitable amounts of time for meaningful discussions that have the potential to have a major impact on the future of Scottish education. Correspondence on behalf of Jenny Gilruth MSP Cab Sec for Education and Skills

Please see the links to the reports below.
 
It's Our Future: Report of the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment
 
Professor Louise Hayward’s final report on qualifications and assessment has been welcomed by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills https://www.gov.scot/news/hayward-review-published/
 
Key recommendations of the Hayward report on the reform of the senior school phase include:

  • the Scottish Diploma of Achievement as a graduation certificate for all senior phase educational settings
  • the end of exams in S4 and a wider range of assessment methods used in Highers and Advanced Highers
  • a digital profile for all learners which allows them to record personal achievements, identify and plan future learning.

The Full report can be found here.
 

All Learners in Scotland Matter - national discussion on education: summary report
 
The Muir Review ‘Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education’ recommended a National Discussion to establish a compelling, consensual and renewed vision for the future of Scottish education. This was undertaken by independent facilitators and commenced work in July 2022. The report provided an overview of the National Discussion and outlined the vision, values, and the high-level Call to Action (C2A) based upon all the evidence collected. The overarching theme is Educating Our Future supported by four inter-related components: Learners and Learning, A Learning System, Digital Futures and Human-Centred Educational Improvement.

The action point related to Educating Our Future is as follows:
Educating Our Future requires a Scottish education system that is proactive, flexible, integrated, and upholds the rights of all children and young people. A future Scottish Education system will offer high-quality teaching and learning, different learner pathways, alternative routes to success, and a range of appropriate assessments that reflect the unique talents of each learner, supports their ambitions, and meet the needs of a changing world.

The full report can be found here.

 

Scottish Teachers’ Pension Schemes’ Consultation

This consultation is seeking views on draft regulations to implement the retrospective phase of the 2015 remedy. The Regulations are part of a package of measures to address the age discrimination that was identified by the Courts in the transitional protections afforded to some scheme members in public service pension schemes. Please note the consultation runs from 23 May 2023 until 23 July 2023.
 
The Scottish Teachers’ Pension Schemes’ Consultation on implementing the 2015 Remedy is available here
 

STUC Education Programme - Teaching Resource

The STUC has developed a ‘Cost Of Living Political Education Course’. The Course links through to the Padlet materials, all of which are online here.

All materials are free and can be adapted by teachers. If interested in having the course in your workplace or community, please see link: https://forms.office.com/e/swaYaWnpFE
 

STUC Trans Equality Guidance

This guide has been developed by the Scottish Trade Union Congress’ (STUC) LGBT+ Workers’ Committee. It is designed to be a practical tool for union reps and activists to further support trans workers/members and how trade union reps can help to embed trans equality and inclusion at work. Please find a link to the STUC’s Guidance 
 

TES Newsletter

Sign up (for free) to the newsletter. For anyone who does, every Friday afternoon they’ll get a short bit of commentary and links to four stories from that week to keep up to speed with the latest news, we’ve been told!  https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/tes-newsletters

 

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Report of the General Secretary

SSTA General Secretary Report to Congress 2023

Friday 12 May 2023

What can happen in a year? Last year I said.

We are on the verge of a new era in Scottish education. The things that we have accepted as normal, if there ever could be anything normal in education, is about to change. But we must learn from the past and not make the same mistakes again.

As you all know, the Government embarked on a new direction for education. The various OECD reports, the International Panel of Experts reports, the Muir Education Review and the Reforming Qualifications and Assessment Review being conducted by Professor Louise Hayward that is due be completed at the end of the month.

Unfortunately, the track record of the Government on some of these reviews is to ignore the teacher trade union voice. The Scottish Government has relied on the view of the ‘establishment’ who ‘know best’ to make policy decisions. Speaking to a few selected teachers is not the voice of the profession. They have no mandate but are only speaking on behalf of themselves. They don’t represent the profession and are not accountable to the profession, and most importantly they do not represent the views of SSTA members.

The SSTA is the only voice of Scottish secondary teachers and must be seen as partner in Scottish education. Government and others must not by-pass the SSTA this time or the same mistakes will be made again.

I hope with the new Cabinet Secretary Jenny Gilruth, who was a teacher, that there is new dawn, and the teacher voice comes front and centre. The SSTA is ready to work in partnership with the Scottish Government to bring about the changes that the Scottish education system needs to develop and thrive.

National Qualifications

 
The SSTA has challenged the SQA’s plan to revert to the national qualification pre-pandemic requirements in 2024 on two fundamental grounds. The pupils are not ready and most importantly the teachers are not ready. Schools are still addressing education recovery; pupils moving into the senior phase are not in the place they need to be if they are to meet their true potential. This together with the proposals in the Hayward Review will fundamentally change the assessment and qualification system in the very near future, is a ‘foolhardy’ step by SQA and further unnecessary source of teacher workload. The SSTA Education Committee went to members to seek their views.

A member said in response in the SSTA survey.

 “I have not spoken to anyone who is in favour of this. Many of us completed the consultative surveys from the SQA and it appears we, the teachers’ voice, have been completely ignored. It is more likely that there will be a detrimental impact, on pupil stress and teacher workload, by bringing them back.” 

To reintroduce pre-pandemic exam arrangements in 2024 when teachers say that only 12% of pupils are ready is a stubborn and self-interest move by an organisation that is oblivious of the realities in secondary schools.

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“The damage to pupils’ learning and the task for teachers in trying to bridge the gap cannot be underestimated, and the SQA must 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. 2,124 secondary teachers, SSTA members cannot all be wrong.


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

Music91%
Modern Studies91%
Geography88%
Art and Design85%
Modern Foreign Languages85%
Biology85%
Physics85%
Chemistry83%
Religious Moral Education79%
History75%
Mathematics70%
Drama69%
Home Economics69%
English64%
Technological Education64%
Physical Education59%
Computing Science56%
Business Education44%

  
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.

The Hayward Review

 
The SSTA raised major concerns over the progress of the Hayward Review and the lack of engagement of teachers in secondary schools. No time had been allocated in schools for teachers to consider the report so they were denied the opportunity to consider the proposals. The review did not tap into teachers’ deep breadth and knowledge as a result.

The main proposals

  • an end to high stake exams at S4, S5 and S6 
  • an end to S4 exams for students who will continue with a subject beyond that year
  • subject and curricular courses in the senior phase of secondary school would typically last for two years
  • most students would accumulate credits throughout the two-year programme and take an external exam at the end of the second year.
  • a ‘Scottish Diploma of Achievement’ to include a full range of achievements – not just academic qualifications


Professor Hayward said
“This approach would lead to a better balance between external assessment, including examinations, and other ways of gathering evidence across the senior phase. We know that adding more to the workload of teachers and others is not sustainable and feel that decisions must be taken to identify what teachers stop doing to allow space for new practices to evolve”.

The SSTA fears that the review will have unintended consequences for teachers, pupils, and schools.  We anticipate that teachers will be left to ‘pick-up the pieces’ and this will add to the pressures and workload that they already experience. The Scottish Diploma of Achievement is “primarily intended to allow evidence of learner achievements to be gathered in a broader range of areas than is currently the case”.

I fear the complicated teachers labour intensive moderation and verification processes will only add teacher workload. We can all remember the pressure and stresses of the Alternative Certification Model created by the SQA only a few years ago. I believe we need to be ready to give a trade union response and say ‘enough is enough’.

Pupil Behaviour

A survey was designed by the SSTA ASN and Education Committees in a response to the deteriorating situation in schools. The survey had a fantastic 2,478 responses.

The survey identified the types of behaviours that are reducing teaching time for all pupils up to 10% in S1 and up to 20% in S2 and S3.

These are the same cohort of pupils you are preparing for qualifications next session. You will recognise the behaviours and the results will not be a surprise. I am sure they will be a surprise to parents and those in Council offices.

Defiance including refusal to work (84%)

Mobile devise misuse (71%),

Disrespect (63%),

Wandering in class and in the corridors (51%),

Interruption in lessons (43%).

Abusive language 37%

Late to class 32%

Grandstanding (clowning) 30%

Verbal aggression 25%

75% of members stated that they had experienced verbal aggression and one in eight members reported physical aggression. But only 9% reported all incidents and 13% some incidents. What of 79% (3 out of 4) who did not report the incidents. 25% said there was a lack of time, 8% discouraged, 18% didn’t know how.

This can probably be explained that nearly half 47% of pupil’s were returned to class before the matter was resolved. Together with only 31% of members felt supported when experiencing poor pupil behaviour.

A member said.

“I have often asked pupils why they behave as they do and the response is always, "because I can!”

Under Reporting of Poor Pupil Behaviour 


The SSTA survey emphasised the high level of incidents in schools that are not being reported. There is a denial culture in the system that fails to acknowledge how serious the situation is in schools. Teachers are suffering and there appears to be little support to address the problem. Pressure is exerted on schools and local authorities to push the numbers down for fear of reputational damage. Many teachers see little point in reporting incidents as no action will be taken. They are often blamed for causing the incident, this is leaving teachers feeling unsupported and is perceived as a measure taken by management to avoid dealing with the pupil. Some teachers are fearful of making reports as they do not want to be seen as the cause of the problem. The SSTA has stated that the employers and the Scottish Government need to acknowledge there is a problem.  If they take ownership of this, poor behaviour can be tackled.

 
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.

Teacher Retention and Recruitment

It cannot be underestimated the importance of teachers’ pay in the battle to retain and recruit teachers in Scotland. The performance of COSLA who represent the employers in delaying for more than a year to reach an agreement in 2021 was inexcusable but to do it again in 2022 is at least disrespectful and a worse vicious. COSLA’s performance during the pay dispute was not one of an employer who respects its employees. It seemed to be an organisation content to see schools closed, pupils miss education and quite happy to bank teachers’ money for taking strike action.

This was seen again in those councils that were not prepared to act and ensure teacher back pay was paid as soon as possible when a pay deal was done. There must be serious consideration for the role COSLA plays at the negotiating table.

I cannot commend enough the leadership and commitment of the SSTA Salaries and Executive Committees for steering the association through a very challenging pay dispute. And, of course, the thousands of members who took industrial action, many for the very first time, in support of our pay claim and achieved a good outcome.

A good pay deal was achieved but it should have been achieved without the need for strike action. Teachers did not want to be on strike but had no option when the employer was unprepared to negotiate. It was to our disadvantage that many parents and members of the public supported the teachers and were not knocking down the doors of the politicians.

Teacher Health and Wellbeing

With teacher pay resolved for this year, notwithstanding the pressures of poor pupil behaviour, teacher workload must be brought under control. A failure to address teacher workload or more fittingly guarding teacher health and wellbeing that will have a detriment impact upon the retention and recruitment of teachers.

I have said before why not ‘pull out all the stops’ to encourage teachers to stay? This could be achieved by paying teachers properly, providing a ‘real’ career structure, valuing teacher’s professional judgment, reducing workload, and giving teachers ‘real’ support with the appropriate educational professionals in meeting the challenges that pupils bring into schools.

A common theme is the expectation of teachers is that they need to do far more than what appears within their job description. Is it any wonder many of our members are reluctant to undertake management roles where they exist, and probably these are the exact people who know their limitations, what is possible and what is not, that should be encouraged into these positions.

Teachers are crying out for a career pathway that recognises curricular specialism, that runs in parallel with the existing leadership/management routes.

The ever-increasing demands by Government, Education Scotland, Inspectors, SQA and local authorities, is taking away the little joy left in teaching, with teachers walking away disheartened and broken. Not just at the end of their careers but many in mid-career with some much more to offer.

Teachers are demoralised by the never-ending and increasing teacher workload. More new initiatives, more tracking and monitoring, more record keeping, more personalised learning plans, more accountability for every move and every decision a teacher makes, and of course a national qualification system that appears to go out of its way to dream up new ways to increase teacher bureaucracy.

Excessive workload demands over several years has been adding pressure and stress upon teachers. This is unsustainable and is damaging teachers’ health. The SSTA demands a plan to address the sources of the excessive demands on teacher time. Teachers need time and space to do their job and there is very little of that about. It is always worth reminding our members that all teachers including Head Teachers, have a maximum 35-hour week contract. 

Teachers must be prepared to fight to take back control of their workload. Agree sensible and properly accounted for Working Time Agreements that recognise the professional judgment of the teacher and gives strength to our members to say NO.

Teachers must be allowed to make decisions on what is a priority, what is appropriate to prepare for lessons, the how they structure lessons, the method of assessment, and be trusted to present pupils for national qualifications without the excessive scrutiny of outside agencies.

We must put the professionalism of the teacher, the importance of teaching and learning at the front on our agenda, remember how you were treated during the pay dispute and end this culture of we can do everything and put a stop to

‘FREE OVERTIME’.

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Presidential Address to 78th Annual Congress

Catherine Nicol, SSTA President

Address to the 78th Congress of the SSTA

The Trade union movement is still a force to be reckoned with.

Trade union members need to be alert to the neoliberal forces in the press, political sphere and social media that strive to create division in our ranks. There is no room for unilateral and partisan action if we are to achieve our shared aims. Holding the line when others seek to break it down is crucial. When those ranked against us succeed in causing division, they take delight in conflict between grassroots members. When our opponents gain the upper hand, this causes misplaced anger and argument between those at the heart of our collective movement. Energy that should be directed into the mission is deflected, purpose is lost, resolution is delayed, and solidarity becomes the victim.

Over the years we have learned that members must be mobilised if we are to achieve our aims and that swift communication and seamless co-ordination is essential. We know that good organisation is necessary and that this is achieved through clear and concise messaging. We recognise that the people that we are fighting for are our strongest asset. We understand that backing each other to the hilt in the fight for the common cause is vital.

Every member of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association who cast a vote in indicative surveys and formal ballots demonstrated that Secondary Teachers are willing and able to engage in action.  Today I want to pay tribute to District Secretaries, School Representatives and grassroots members who facilitated and took part in our successful industrial action. The Office Bearers, members of the Salaries and Conditions of Service and Executive Committees deserve high praise. All of you stepped up to the mark whenever the call came: you persevered despite a punishing schedule. You listened to the membership throughout and had the courage to make decisions that others shied away from. Accolades also go to the SSTA Secretariat and Office staff who worked relentlessly to ensure our members were kept informed and supported during the pay campaign. Our General Secretary stood at the helm throughout and steered a course through the dark pools & treacherous waters during negotiations. The pay agreement was reached after extensive wrangling between all sides of the SNCT and the final resolution was achieved -in no small part- due to the considerable negotiating prowess of the SSTA’s Commander in Chief.

In March, the Teachers Side of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers voted for acceptance of a pay settlement brokered by the government and offered by employers. This offer came after a war of attrition between all three sides, it was decent but make no mistake it only goes part of the way to restoring our incomes to the level required to remunerate dedicated professionals.   A majority of members of the SSTA concluded the deal agreed was adequate given current circumstances.

Insult was added to injury when a few employers delayed making good on the back pay due. What a disgraceful way to treat professionals who had been so recently lauded and applauded. Some Local Authorities, a shout out for North Ayrshire, honoured their commitments and demonstrated that the teachers they employ are valued and trusted professionals. They ensured payment due was received in whole by the end of March. One rule for some of the 32 and another rule for others. COSLA need to get their act together if they are to remain part of the negotiating mechanism that determines teachers’ pay and conditions. They keep giving us reasons to chuck them out of the way!

Our dispute has come to an end but colleagues in Northern Ireland fight on. Members of the Northern Ireland Teachers Council, which includes the UTU, INTO, NEU, NASUWT and NAHT are working together in a joint effort to demand better for education and educators. They have unified in action to achieve a fair pay award. Today I send a message of solidarity from the SSTA.

The struggle continues in England too. I was heartened to see the leaders of all 4 teacher unions sit down together to announce that they will co-ordinate action in their fight to obtain a fair pay deal. This happened on the anniversary of the day in 1789 that Fletcher Christian led a mutiny against the infamous Captain William Bligh on the Bounty; and hopefully the UK governments intransigent attitude will take a walk off the plank.

Members of other public sector unions are prepared to take action to obtain decent pay for a fair day’s work; as did we. Their members are willing to stand with colleagues during days of National strike action: as did we. We stand with you and beside you in spirit and cheer you on. Today, I send a message of fellowship to all sister unions still engaged in battle.

The SSTA hope that sense prevails, that the public purse is opened and that sister unions campaigns bring about pay awards that recognise the essential work that you do; all your members deserve better. Have no doubt, the general public and parents who benefit from the work that we do to deliver high quality public services are on your side. Everyone here wishes you well!

While our attention has been focused on the pay dispute the reconfiguring of the education landscape has moved on at pace. Education reform has spawned a variety of reviews and consultations. A rapid response from the SSTA was required. We adopted digital forms of communication to connect with SSTA members in this fast moving and ever-changing environment. The SSTA is grateful to all members who took the time to read our frequent updates thoroughly, contributed to surveys or contacted the office to share their views. The information you have provided the SSTA leadership team has been invaluable during social dialogue with national and global partners.

Members responses have created a rich source of evidence that committees and Office Bearers have drawn on. The data you provided has determined the SSTA position in negotiations, consultative groups and discussions with national education bodies.  Knowing your perspectives on teaching in the secondary sector has enabled us to speak with authority on behalf of Secondary Teachers at conferences organised by Education International. You have enabled your representatives to provide advice for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which will influence their research and resultant education policy. You have helped the SSTA to build partnerships and foster good relationships with trade unionists around the world. You are invested in education, your views matter. You can rest assured that everyone that sits at the table during Congress does everything in their power to ensure the voice of secondary teachers is heard wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.

You may be asking yourself why all of that is important! Why must this be stated?

Last year we heard much of visions and grand plans. Announcements were made about the whole sale restructuring of the education system. Education Scotland were to be transformed. The Inspectorate were to morph and the SQA was to be no more by 2024.  So, what happens next Cabinet Secretary? Secondary School teachers need to know where we are heading.

The Hayward Review presented us with the best opportunity we have had in a generation to create an assessment structure that truly captures the knowledge base and aptitudes of all learners.  The review seeks a reimagining of the type and range of qualifications that learners could achieve.

A wide-ranging consultation has taken place, but this has involved many stakeholders. Professor Hayward envisaged that every secondary teacher in the land would participate in some way.  However, this hope was not realised. Largely, since teachers were not given the time to access and digest the materials or respond to surveys during In-Service days. This grave mistake was highlighted by the SSTA, and the lack lustre response of employers led us to provide all our members with a direct link to the review web pages. It is essential that Secondary Teachers are not just heard, we must be listened to. Policy makers and decision-making bodies must be made to realise the implications of their latest Visions, Values and Proposals. The reality of working in Secondary Education seem to be wilfully misunderstood. Alterations to existing assessment conditions for National Qualifications is necessary but alterations must be introduced gradually. Skilful persuasion is required to make the architects of change alter their course. We all know it is better to divert the missile before it obliterates the target.  Members of the Education Committee and Office Bearers have advocated for the inclusion of approaches to assessment that you have called for, many to not want to stray from the path that they are sure of.  We have contributed to the teacher trade union response to proposals being made. I note with great interest that in Ireland ASTI and the TUI are pushing back against moves to reduce the weighting given to terminal examinations for the leavers certificate in favour of more extensive internal assessment. Just as this is being proposed as a suitable model for Scotland. It seems the Education ministers of our nations do have time to work collegiately!

The report is soon to be published. Fundamental changes to the assessment and qualifications system could be on their way. Despite our input there is still a danger that the report will be based on thin understanding of what can be done in schools. We will soon know if the recommendations are realistic and if they will gain traction. After all it may not come to pass, the government and employers keep telling us they have nae money!

The SSTA and its members must be fully involved in the establishment of any new assessment & qualifications regime. We need to be persistent in our call for some aspects of the planning and implementation process to be mandatory. We must insist on measures that will control workload.  It must be possible to teach coursework and do all assessments within the time available. Aspects of the wider curriculum must also be considered. Assessment of any subject must not require teachers to work beyond a 35hr working week. All tests must be of a high standard, of sufficient range and pre verified. Assessment deadlines and calls for predictions of pupil attainment need to be aligned with the completion of all coursework.  The use of algorithms to alter grade boundaries in exams should be abandoned.

Educators at all levels in the system are working in a fog and in this sea of uncertainty we are left clinging to the things that we know will float.

To avoid mistakes made in the past; we insist that a troubleshooting process needs to be completed before any new assessment and certification model goes live. Secondary school practitioners need at least one calendar year to prepare before full implementation. Respected professionals and the learners we teach deserve nothing less.

The impact of the pandemic is still keenly felt by many.

Some are living in dire straits, teachers included. Education services are focusing budgets on methods of supporting learners and their families. Many of you mitigate the effect of the cost-of-living crisis on learners. Running breakfast clubs for youngsters that are sitting exams. Making sure that kids have the bus fare to get into school. Organising collections for food banks and gathering second-hand clothing. Going as far as making sure pupils have clean uniforms. Providing pencils, rubbers, glue, paper, and other scholastic essentials.

Austerity has reached the classroom. A make do and mend culture has set in. Many of us are exhorted to find sources of grant funding to maintain basic provisions. We do not have enough for jotters, never mind chemicals or the equipment necessary to deliver rich experiences and joyful lessons.

The fact that we are being asked to do more with much less is ignored. How many of us have dipped into our own pockets to subsidise the department budget? How many of us are purchasing resources needed to make lessons more engaging or buying materials that pupils need to create an assessment piece? You should stop that you know, this is what the SAC and PEF funds are for. You did not get a pay rise so you can subsidise the department budget, diminished as it is. Some of you feel like the world rests on your shoulders, you go beyond your remit to support learners but stop and think: who is looking after you?

And now, the elephant in the room.

 We are living in the aftermath of a global pandemic, but the crisis does not confine itself to school and personal finances. Educators in secondary schools have been hit by a tidal wave of distressed behaviours.

Many of us feel that teaching and learning is now subordinate to managing disruption. Agents of disorder ruin lessons. Pupils refuse point blank to engage in even the simplest of tasks. Some refuse to sit in their allocated seat. Explanations are interrupted by demands for attention. A critical mass of class members are downright rude to staff and each other. Disrespect and selfishness are the order of the day. At worst mob rule prevails in classrooms and corridors. In many schools’ teachers are faced with torrents of verbal abuse during lessons. The number of violent incidents reported is increasing. A culture of accommodating the needs of the transgressor has become the default position in some places. Learners that do come to school to learn do not feel secure. There is an increasing sense that classrooms are not safe learning spaces for staff or pupils.

This was never the intention of law or policy makers; this is the result of misinterpretation of their instruments and lack of funding. There are many reasons why children make poor choices, there is a wide range of circumstances that affect each person’s ability to regulate their behaviour. However, the school is a community, and each classroom is a micro community within it, and we must find better ways of helping children to accept the norms required for good teaching and learning. We need more staff; we need more resources. Increased levels of funding are required to put measures in place to fully support the needs of all learners and their teachers. Secondary teachers seek to develop learners’ capability to develop their subject knowledge and create a safe environment where learning can take place. Demonstrating how learners can take part in lessons in a manner that is productive is integral to our mission. Teaching learners how to behave and respect their peers and the staff is also critical to building a safe environment for everyone- including teachers and support staff.

The OECD are suggesting that governments ensure that people are taught to swim, but I do not think this was the high tide of which they were thinking. If we do not act now Good Ship Education will sink: many teachers are already heading for the lifeboats!

So….

The morale of teachers has never have been at such a low ebb.

The entire system is in a state of flux and uncertainty reigns.

Scottish Secondary teachers and colleagues in other sectors must march onwards to ensure that the health and wellbeing of teachers is not wounded more severely than it already is. We must refocus our effort on our campaigns to reduce class contact time and class sizes. We must jettison causes of workload that make our working lives intolerable. We must intensify our effort to improve and extend support structures available to teachers. We must insist on the introduction of measures that actively reduce the causes of work-related ill health & stress. The Teachers Side of the Scottish Negotiating Committee, our Association, and colleagues in the EIS, NASUWT, AHDH, SLS and Community will join forces once again to defend, improve and secure the conditions of service of all teachers working in the Scottish Education system.

Collective action is at its most powerful when we support each other. In future we must maintain a unified front if we are to succeed.

Now more than ever you need to know that your union will support you. We will continue to listen to you and advocate for you.

 Your union puts your needs first, we are here to insist on better conditions for you.

The SSTA is invested in Secondary Teachers!

Teachers are invested in Secondary Education!

Thank you for hearing what I have to say!

ThinkAgain

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. 

Music91%
Modern Studies91%
Geography88%
Art and Design85%
Modern Foreign Languages85%
Biology85%
Physics85%
Chemistry83%
Religious Moral Education79%
History75%
Mathematics70%
Drama69%
Home Economics69%
English64%
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”.

[Ends]

Please note: the SSTA survey received 2120 responses.

Appendices

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

SQA 2024 – 90% of Teachers say their Pupils are not ready

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 SSTA sought views of members. In responding to the survey, secondary teachers who are delivering national qualifications were clearly opposed to a full return. More than 2,000 members have responded in a week with the survey closing on Friday.
 
Seamus Searson, General Secretary said.
“The initial results indicate that 90% of teachers believe that their pupils are not ready for a full return of exam requirements. The damage to pupils’ learning and the task for teachers in trying bridge the gap cannot be underestimated, and to make more changes to qualifications when the whole qualification system is about to change is at best foolhardy and at worst negligent”.
 
“The SQA is to be abolished and a new body established in 2024.  This is the SQA’s last attempt to take control and is not about putting the pupils front and centre. The SQA has ignored the impact of the pandemic upon pupils and teachers and is set upon its own agenda which is more concerned about cementing its position in the education landscape”.
 
“Teachers do remember the damage caused by the SQA when it introduced the Alternative Certification Model (ACM) in 2020 which put considerable stress and workload pressure on pupils and teachers in the middle of a pandemic. It was also the SQA that created the grading fiasco that resulted in a confidence vote and potential resignation of the DFM. These are other examples of the SQA not listening to the profession, the teachers in schools. Hopefully the SQA will listen this time”.
 
“The survey did show that there was a willingness in some subjects and at some levels to introduce a phased change to the current arrangements to improve the opportunities of some pupils. The SQA response seems to ignore the impact of covid and assumes that everything is back to normal. Further details of the subjects and levels to follow the close of the survey”.
 
 
SSTA members have said.
 
“To return to pre pandemic course structure would be a major concern! The majority of our students really struggled to meet deadlines this session and this includes our very able pupils! We simply don’t have enough class contact time next session to go back, I believe there will be even more blank spaces in pupils folios and to return to full courses content pupil grades will decline even more”.
 
“This is a ridiculous decision by the SQA. It is likely to tip many teachers and pupils over the edge as far as workload issues and stress are concerned. In the past I have worked for the SQA as a marker. I feel unable to do this anymore as I no longer want to be in any way associated with a dictatorial and unsympathetic employer”.
 
“Teachers are about to embrace study leave and yet again we are left wondering if time has to be spent planning or a full course return as this will mean making new resources and altering timeliness etc”.
 
“I hope the SQA listen to the views of teachers and act on our feedback. Another year keeping course content as it is would he in the best interest for all involved”.
 
“As a Guidance Teacher we see the effect of SQA exams on the health and wellbeing of pupils. It’s too much for pupils. Too much change. It would be better to wait until the Hayward Review is complete”.
 
“Bringing back elements at Higher and Advanced Higher when staff have been stretched and unable to cover the relevant work for the last two years is unrealistic. It could be reintroduced at N5 this year, Higher the following session and Advanced Higher the session after that. It is an unfair demand of Higher and AH pupils this year”.
 
“Fine with full requirement for National 5, but not Higher and Adv Higher, this would need to be a staggered approach due to the nature of courses i.e. can't fully reinstate topics across all course since prior learning at previous course level has not occurred”.
 
“The pandemic has impacted on subjects being taught in BGE to truly prepare students with the skills for Senior Phase. This BGE moving into Senior Phase has had a heavily disrupted BGE and not had the opportunity to fully develop skills in preparation for Senior Phase. SQA need to take that into account. There is no spare months to allow catch up. Particularly for practical subjects”.
 
“The removal of the writing assignment at Higher and NAT 5 level had been the latest change to the course and was not one which I believed added any value. It only meant additional teaching time being spent on the preparation and assessment of this component. It was a pointless and time-consuming exercise for pupils and teachers with no benefit to pupil learning. This has further strengthened the lack of confidence and respect I feel for the SQA. I appreciate the SSTA prompt response to this announcement”.
 
Please note: 53% of respondents have marked or are markers for the SQA with only 35% intending to mark for the SQA in the future.

The Survey will close on Friday 28 April with a full report to follow.