Scotland Teachers Union Votes to Take Industrial Action

(Photo: Daily Record)

(Photo: Daily Record)

The leading teachers unions in Scotland have expressed concerns about the “excessive” workload around the country’s recently-reformed examination regimen. Now members of the EIS, the largest teachers union, have voted by 95 per cent to five per cent for an industrial action over their significantly increased workload.

According to the teachers, the large amount of internal teacher assessment related to qualifications is excessive, reports TES. An official review group established to investigate the issue confirmed that statement and concluded that the workload created by the revised system was “unsustainable.”

The voting comes a week after the EIS annual general meeting during which teachers spoke up about the urgent need for the local government to implement changes to the assessment policies to decrease the excessive burden on students and teaching staff.

Scottish educators have been sounding the alarm about the impact of the revised exam regime on their workload for some time now, but have yet to see any policy changes. However, these actions would not involve any strikes, notes Scott Macnab of The Scotsman.

Larry Flanagan, the EIS general secretary, commented:

“This ballot result expresses the frustration of Scotland’s secondary teachers over the excessive assessment demands placed on them and their students, particularly around unit tests at National 5 and Higher; and the EIS now has a very clear mandate to implement an immediate work-to-contract regarding SQA activity.”

EIS members are now prepared to take part in work to rule. It is also possible that they refuse to cooperate with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), writes Katrine Bussey of The Daily Record.

Flannagan also confirmed that the actions were not supposed to have a direct impact on students as the teachers would continue giving classes and assessing students’ work. The union would carefully consider which SQA-related tasks should have withdrawn cooperation from and which duties educators should continue to perform as normal.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Government was disappointed by the ballot results. She doubted that the industrial actions would be in the best interest of teachers and could prove to be especially problematic for students and their parents. The First Minister also confirmed the Government has been working hard to find a proper solution so that industrial action could be avoided:

“This is an issue around what teachers consider to be unnecessary workload and the government has been very clear about our determination to take action to reduce teacher workload.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, now serving as education secretary, has also addressed the issue of teachers’ increased workload. Swinney commented that the First Minister and the Government as a whole were trying to find ways to reduce bureaucracy and let the teachers have more time for teaching.

As Jamie McIvor of the BBC notes, further regulatory measures would include establishing a working group of the teacher unions, to focus on what more needed to be done to handle the new qualifications and to decrease the unnecessary administrative burdens on teachers and students.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie criticized the First Minister Sturgeon, saying that instead of investing in early-years education, she was “fighting with teachers.”