EIS March and Rally takes place in Glasgow.
TODAY IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF FIGHTBACK ON EDUCATION CUTS, SAYS EIS
The President of the Educational Institute of Scotland, Helen Connor, has warned that today's demonstration against education funding cuts is just the beginning of a long-term campaign to fight back on behalf of schools, colleges, pupils and students across Scotland. Ms Connor was speaking at a Rally for the "Why Must our Children Pay? campaign, organised by the EIS, which saw around 10,000 teachers, lecturers, parents and students march through the streets of Glasgow in a national protest against education cuts.
Speaking at the conclusion of the March at a well-attended Rally at the Clyde Auditorium, Ms Connor said, "It is significant that so many people - not only teachers and lecturers, but also parents and children, students, fellow public sector workers and trade union colleagues, as well as a significant number of politicians from a wide range of parties - have come from all parts of the country to demonstrate their support for Scottish education. The message is clear - that the people of Scotland will not accept our children's education being damaged in order to pay for the publicly funded bailout of failed financial institutions.
Ms Connor added, "Now, we must build on this strong support today and build a long-term campaign to defend Scottish education and to protect the level of funding invested in our schools, colleges and universities. Our young people are worth that investment, and the future prosperity of our country depends on these very same young people. By cutting back funding now, by seeking the cheap option to their education, the government will damage not only our children's futures but the future of our entire country. We simply cannot allow that to happen.
Ms Connor went on to highlight some of the areas being impacted by the cuts, such as the much-lauded additional support for learning which all pupils now have the right to access, as well as the planned reductions in class sizes which are intended to allow more individual attention for every pupil: "The Scottish Government has heavily advertised the new right to request Additional Support for Learning for any pupil who could benefit from it. While we absolutely support pupils' right to access ASL, it is ironic that this right is being advertised so heavily at the very same time as the support staff required to deliver it are being cut back by local authorities right across the country. This will inevitably lead to parents and pupils being disappointed, with many vulnerable pupils who need additional support missing out due to budget cuts.
Ms Connor added, "The budget cuts are also making a mockery of the Scottish Government's commitment to lower class sizes. Contrary to their promise to maintain teacher numbers in order to lower class sizes, we now actually have 2,500 fewer teachers than we did when the current Scottish Government was elected. And this is not because we are lacking skilled teachers to fill empty posts - on the contrary, we currently have thousands of highly trained, newly qualified, young teachers who are desperate to work in our schools. The fact that they are being left unemployed or underemployed is a shame on our governments, both local and national, who are overseeing a criminal waste of talent, enthusiasm and potential by leaving thousands of young teachers without a teaching job.
The Rally heard from one such recently qualified teacher who said, "I am now in my 4th post-probation year without a full-time contract. This is not just a recent problem - it has been developing over several years. I have been unable to get a job under governments run by three different political parties. I am certainly not alone. I got into teaching because I want to work with and help children. This casualisation of employment has meant that many new teachers don't get the opportunity to gain experience of long-term development work with classes. It also means that many pupils who need continuity and consistency, don't get it. And often it is the pupils who need most care, who suffer most from short-term solutions. I have survived because I kept on a bar job to provide some income during holidays and periods of unemployment. If politicians had put the energy that has gone into calling each other names in to addressing this problem, perhaps I wouldn't currently be working in a bar. The only upside - since I have taught every secondary subject over the past 4 years, I am now really well qualified for the cross-curricular teaching methods of Curriculum for Excellence.
The Rally was chaired by EIS General Secretary Ronnie Smith, who commented: "It is many years since education was last in such grave danger from cuts. Teachers and lecturers are telling the true story of what budget cuts are doing to their schools, colleges and universities and to the life chances of their pupils and students. And we all know that even deeper cuts are coming before long. But it doesn't have to be this way. Our children get just one chance at education - they cannot come back in 5 years time when hopefully things are better and re-do their schooling.
Mr Smith added, "It is simply wrong, and unacceptable, that a whole generation of young people should have their prospects blighted by this attack on the public education service.
But it's also stupid - in economic terms - to cut education spending in times like these. Education spending is not a cost - it is an investment - not only in the young people themselves but also in the future economic success of the country. As economies recover, it is those countries which have continued to invest in education and training that will lead the way and benefit most.
"Today is just the beginning - we must continue to press the case for education in the months and years ahead and we need to do that together - in solidarity among education and other public service workers, among fellow trade unionists and among those who use and rely upon the services we provide and value, added Mr Smith.
Other speakers at the rally offering their support to the EIS "Why Must our Children Pay? campaign included Grahame Smith (STUC General Secretary) and Eileen Prior (Executive Director of the SPTC).
For further information, contact Brian Cooper on 0131 225 6244 or 07974 715101
or visit www.eis.org.uk/campaign