Cutting preparation time would damage education for pupils, says EIS
The Educational Institute of Scotland has responded to comments from the leader of Glasgow City Council, and highlighted that cutting back on teachers’ contractual preparation and correction time would be counter-productive and damaging to quality education provision for pupils.
The EIS also stressed that the proper forum for discussing teachers’ contractual conditions is the tripartite Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT), and that any attempt to bypass this by negotiating in the media is inappropriate and unhelpful.
Commenting today, EIS General Secretary Ronnie Smith said, "The main focus of our education system must always be to ensure a high-quality education service for all our young people. Adopting a bean-counting approach, which concentrates on balancing the books above all else, will inevitably lead to a diminution of the high quality education that our young people have the right to expect.”
Mr Smith continued, "The Teachers’ Agreement for the 21st Century, which set agreed limits on both class-teaching time and other key elements of teachers’ jobs such as preparation of lessons and correction of pupils’ work, recognised and reflected modern education practice and the heavy workload demands placed on teachers both in and out of the classroom setting.
Teaching is a high-pressure and high-demand profession, both physically and mentally, and teachers already routinely work over 10 hours of unpaid overtime every week. Attempting simply to stretch the working time of teachers would be counter-productive in terms of quality education provision.
OECD figures show that only in four countries do teachers work longer hours than in Scotland. The answer to Glasgow’s budget problems cannot come through destroying the work-life balance of teachers.”
"Schools are currently in the midst of the most radical programme of educational change in decades with the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence. This is placing increasing workload demand on teachers, specifically in the area of preparation.
"Teachers are being asked to do more and more outwith class-time, so it makes absolutely no sense to seek to reduce the quantity of preparation time that is available to teachers. The lack of time for teachers to work on CfE has already been recognised by the Scottish Government with the allocation of an additional five in-service days for CfE work over a two-year period.
"Reducing the time available to teachers to work on preparation and correction will only make the situation worse and slow down the pace of development on Curriculum for Excellence,” said Mr Smith.
Mr Smith continued, "The main job of Councillors should be to fight for high-quality public services for the communities that they serve. The main focus for the education service must always be the young people that our schools serve, and this means placing an emphasis on delivering the high-quality education that every young person has the right to expect.
"In his fixation with balancing the books, Mr Matheson is running the risk of losing sight of what is most important - our young people and the quality of education that they receive.”
Mr Smith added, "Already, schools and teachers are being placed under increased strain due to budget cutbacks. Nationally, we have seen a loss of 1461 teaching posts over the past year. In the last two years Glasgow has dumped over 500 teaching posts - a cut of 9.5%. With fewer and fewer staff in our classrooms, teachers are having to work harder as class sizes continue to rise.
"This is not in the best interests of pupils, as modern teaching practice is based around more individualised learning for each pupil. With fewer teachers and increased workload, the inevitable result is less attention for each pupil, and a damaging knock-on impact on attempting to meet the individual learning needs of each pupil.”
"Parents know and understand that their own children have different skills and aptitudes, and therefore different educational needs. Current teaching practice also recognises that every pupil is different, and is designed to work with each pupil to attempt to meet their own educational needs.
"Cutting back on preparation time reduces the opportunity for teachers to plan for each pupils’ needs, with serious and worrying implications for every single pupil in the class,” said Mr Smith.
Mr Smith went on to question Councillor Matheson’s decision to raise his concerns through the media rather than by bringing a proposal to the Scottish Negotiating Committee for teachers (SNCT).
Mr Smith said, "As Councillor Matheson should know, the terms and conditions of Scottish teachers are agreed nationally through the SNCT. Any party to the SNCT - the local authority side, the Scottish Government side, or the Teachers’ side - can bring any proposal it wishes to be discussed to the SNCT so that it can be considered by all parties.
"This is the appropriate forum for any such issues to be discussed, and the EIS will continue to respect the SNCT and follow correct procedures in raising issues for discussion.
"It is profoundly unhelpful for any one party to the SNCT to seek to prejudice future discussions by attempting to negotiate through the media without firstly raising the issue through the appropriate channel of the SNCT.”