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!


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!


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

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.


SSTA ready to Boycott the SQA Exams next year

The SQA has announced 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.

Seamus Searson SSTA General Secretary said:

“The SQA pushed this decision out on a day when all focus is on Holyrood, just two days before the Easter break when teachers and learners are in the final furlong for the 2023 exams. This is a bad news story for all secondary school teachers and the young people they teach”.

“I am absolutely astounded by this message from the SQA. The SQA needs a reality check as it has totally misread the situation in secondary schools. I have not spoken to a single secondary school teacher who believes their pupils are ready to return to full exam requirements. The SSTA has, at every turn, and in meetings with the Cabinet Secretary and with the SQA, advocated for interim measures to remain in place in 2024 and beyond.

“The long-term damage to pupils, caused by the pandemic, is no secret.   Every secondary teacher in the country knows that pupils are still not ready to return to the previous regime. Any resumption of ‘normal’ arrangements is more about SQA taking back control and cementing a place for itself in the developing education landscape. This risks giving an impression that the pandemic never happened, and that education recovery is just a nonsense to which the SQA pays lip service”.

“This return flies in the face of common sense when the Hayward Review is going to change the assessment and qualifications system in 2025 and beyond. To reintroduce the ‘normal’ when it could all change again in the next couple of years is just going to add to teacher workload and cause further damage to teachers’ health and wellbeing.

“Moreover, the SSTA has been refused a place at the National Qualifications Strategic Group. When challenged, the SQA has stated that it needs only one teacher representative.   Our view is that they do not really want to hear what secondary teachers think. This is the same group that introduced the Alternative Certification Model (ACM) during Covid which was roundly condemned as a workload nightmare by all secondary teachers”.

“Any idea that the SQA has engaged with the education community carries the risk of being accused of contempt for secondary school teachers. This proposal shows that it hasn’t listened and is following its own agenda.

“The SSTA has already had calls from members to boycott the return of the full requirements and I cannot see the call being rejected. The SSTA says NO to bureaucrats setting the agenda and heaping more stress and pressure on a profession that is on its knees”.


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.”


Teacher Pay Settlement 2022 – 2024

At the SNCT Teachers’ Panel meeting on Wednesday 14 March to consider the 2022-2024 pay offer. The pay offer was formally accepted by all unions and the decision was communicated to employers at the close of the meeting. The SNCT Handbook is to be updated to include

  1. SNCT 23/93 Pay Agreement April 2022-July 2024
  2. SNCT Part 2 Appendix 2.1 Salary Tables
  3. SNCT Part 2 Appendix 2.5: Annex A (Remote School, Distant Island and Residential Special School Allowances)

Local authorities will be planning to make the changes in salaries including ‘back pay’ and will be advising all employees of payment arrangements.
Claiming ‘Back Pay’
The pay changes will be automatic to most members who have continued to be employed by the same local authority. However, the SSTA wishes to advise members who have retired or left the profession during the period of the pay settlement are required to make a ‘back pay’ claim to their previous employing authority.
In addition, members that have moved local authority or gained a promotion are also required to make a ‘back pay’ claim.
For further information, please follow the link to a SSTA proforma to assist in making the claim.


SSTA Pay Ballot – Vote to Accept

The SSTA conducted a formal pay ballot of members on the latest pay offer from the employers (COSLA). Members voted overwhelmingly to accept and brought the SSTA pay dispute and further industrial action to an end.
The SSTA members returned a 85.3% in favour of accepting with 14.7% rejecting the latest offer. The formal ballot had a turnout of 79.9%.
Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary said.
“The SSTA is an autonomous teachers’ union and the response to the ballot gave a clear statement. The membership has determined to accept the latest pay offer. Throughout the period of industrial action, the SSTA has taken a measured approach, and has been willing to negotiate to find a solution to the pay dispute”.
“The SSTA is proud to be a member-led union, and the ballot is a fundamental part of our democratic process. The SSTA will be voting to accept this offer at the next SNCT meeting and asserting that the back pay due is in teachers’ pay packets as soon as possible. Hopefully, the employers will be prepared to act quickly”.
“However, the SSTA has a major concern over the unnecessary pay cap; this seems to be an act of political dogma rather than a rational proposal. The inclusion of this is a considerable barrier in the professional career structure for secondary school teachers. The career ladder has been stifled for many years: the number of posts of responsibility has been cut severely.  Posts such as these are needed in secondary schools as they are essential for good management systems. The reduction in the number of posts with responsibility attached to them has put good order in schools at risk; this is a fundamental requirement for a successful school. It is no surprise that teachers are walking away and this salary cap is just a ‘slap in the face’ to teachers in senior positions in schools”.
Catherine Nicol, SSTA President said.
“This dispute could, and should, have been resolved many months ago. Scottish Government and COSLA should have been more prepared to negotiate with teacher unions properly and long before they did. This showed a lack of respect for the collective bargaining process that is in place and the unions had no option but to embark on strike action. Many days of school closures causing children to miss their education should and could have been prevented. Lessons on negotiating with teacher unions must be learnt, the process must be taken seriously in future”.
“SSTA members have been frustrated by the delay in the delivery of a pay award that should have been paid in April last year. They have been keen to get back to work and to support their pupils as they prepare for the forthcoming examinations”.
“I am proud to be the SSTA President, as the SSTA is the only teachers’ union that speaks exclusively from the perspective of teachers that work in the secondary sector, and I make no apology for this. The SSTA speaks and fights, solely on behalf of those that hold posts in Scottish Secondary schools.



The SSTA has launched a formal ballot on the improved pay offer received from COSLA . The SSTA is advising all members to consider carefully the details of the pay offer.  Please note that it is structured differently from the previous pay offer that members were asked to consider in the consultative survey in February.
The offer is for 28 months and is in three parts for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 July 2024:

  • A 7% increase at all SNCT pay points with effect from 1 April 2022, with a cap at a starting salary of £80,000 or over, where a £5,600 flat rate uplift to salary will apply.
  • A further increase of 5% at all SNCT pay points with effect from 1 April 2023, with a cap at a starting salary of £80,000 or over where a £4,000 flat rate uplift to salary will apply.
  • A further increase of 2% at all SNCT pay points with effect from 1 January 2024, with a cap at a starting salary of £80,000 or over where a £1,600 flat rate uplift to salary will apply.

A draft set of salary scales based on the revised pay offer can be found here.

The formal online ballot will be conducted by Mi-Voice, an independent scrutineer and will close at 4.00pm on Thursday 9 March 2023It is vitally important that members respond as quickly as possible to ensure that all members’ views can be considered. 

The SSTA is an autonomous teachers’ union and will determine its own position on pay and future industrial action following the outcome of this formal ballot. As a member-led union, the ballot is a fundamental part of our democratic process, and it will be acted upon by the SSTA elected-member committees.

Remember the SSTA is the only teachers’ union that speaks solely on behalf of Scottish Secondary teachers.  Every member’s view is important!

The email invitation to take part in the ballot will be sent out by Mi-Voice at approx. 4.30pm on Monday 6 March 2023 from elections@mi-voice.com.  The email will be sent to members preferred email addresses. If you cannot see the email, please check the junk/spam folder. 

Should you be unable to find your ballot email, you can request that the email is re-sent by visiting www.mi-vote.com/secure/ssta and entering the required information.

Teachers’ Pay Dispute 2022-2023

The SSTA National Executive met today to consider the next steps of the SSTA pay campaign. The Executive had identified dates for further industrial action in the event of the employers failing to produce an improved pay offer.

However, just after 3.00pm today an improved pay offer was received from COSLA and as previously agreed by the SSTA Salaries Committee and National Executive the latest pay offer will be put to members. The SSTA will conduct a formal online ballot undertaken by an independent scrutineer next week with further details for the ballot to be issued early next week


Following a meeting of the SSTA Salaries and Conditions of Service Committee and National Executive this evening the following statement has been released.
The SSTA conducted a consultative survey of all members in local authorities, to gauge members’ views and comments on the employers pay offer (14 February 2023). The committees would like to thank all members who contributed to the survey that had a 76% response.
The SSTA position has been to build strike action, apply pressure on the Scottish Government and COSLA and to bring the pay dispute to settlement. The SSTA has embarked on a measured campaign that has led to a series of meetings of all sides. At each stage SSTA sought to increase opportunities for negotiation. Following the failure of the employers to present a new pay offer the SSTA Executive, at its meeting on 20 January, declared two further days of strike action to take place on 28 February and 1 March.
Eventually, on the 14 February a new pay offer was received. The SSTA Executive made the decision to consult members on the latest offer, to gauge members’ views and help to give a steer as to the next steps in the pay campaign.
The consultative survey responses contained a wide range of views and has highlighted the strong feelings of members, not only on teachers’ pay but the damaging impact teacher workload is having on members.
The members survey returned a very marginal vote in favour of accepting the pay offer. However, the pay offer was rejected by the SNCT Teachers’ Side and therefore the pay offer of 14 February has fallen. Discussions within the SNCT are continuing for an improved offer to be brought forward.
The SSTA National Executive has unanimously agreed in light of the members response in the survey to defer the industrial action planned on 28 February and 1 March in the expectation of an improved pay offer in the coming days.

The SSTA will in conjunction with other teacher unions reinstate the industrial action should an improved pay offer not be forthcoming