General Secretary’s AGM report 2013

Created on: 07 Jun 2013 | Last modified: 23 Sep 2015

Good afternoon colleagues

It’s been a quick year! Sign of age, enjoying myself or  more likely, simply the pace of events

Certainly has been a busy year as we have sought to engage with the multi agendas facing us as a profession and as a trade union

Reminded by a delegate last year, my brother – General Sec report not rant so I will endeavour to report to you on the work of the Institute over the past year

One of the work streams  I identified last year was the development of our communication strategy – slide show for example over 100 press release since our last AGM, 500plus media comments, and over 1,000 media enquiries; also started direct e-mail updates to members, increased our use of social media – all continuing project

That activity is important but the key issue in terms of communication is engagement with members.

AGM passed a resolution last year requiring the GS to visit all local associations over a two year cycle

I’m happy to report that in year one that I have visited 17 of our 32 local associations over the course of the year – either speaking at a general meeting, to a school branch or attending an event

Primary purpose is to make myself available to members, keep members informed, support effective communication, hugely beneficial to me to hear first-hand the concerns and to gauge the mood of members

Enjoyed all the events, found it particularly useful to speak at school level to members – such as at the primary cluster event in Biggar or the staff at Canongate Primary in St Andrew’s, or lively branch meeting at Kilsyth Academy. 

Happy to meet and speak to groups of members in any part of the country – simply have to ask and we’ll make appropriate arrangements

St Andrews visit

IWD – 12th GS, 12th Doctor - reincarnation

Engaging women members of the union

Last year, I cited a number of issues which confronted us, and they all remain: pensions, McCormac, CfE senior phase, CfE primary and Nursery, CfE bureaucracy, workload, salaries and supply, Donaldson and cutbacks – similar landscape

Let me deal with some of these areas 

An area which has been the subject of considerable agitation for teachers is that of pensions

This time last year we had just committed to negotiations with Scottish Government on the issue of scheme design – over the year several meetings have been held

Initially the possibility of progress seemed to be there – the focus of those discussions quite quickly became the issue of the age of retirement – with the slogan ‘68 is too late’ succinctly encapsulating our aim

It has been a frustrating experience, however, to be involved in these discussions because it became clear that no matter what proposals that we and SG considered, the UK Treasury, which has the power of veto over any Scottish scheme, was always going to adjust the various actuarial assumptions it made to ensure that any Scottish variant from the English scheme, and the main change was the ability to retire earlier than 68 with a minimised actuarial hit, was always going to be poorer for or Scottish scheme when compared to the default proposal. 

In other words colleagues, the deck has been stacked against us by the UK Con Dem Coalition Government

SG did achieve some movement from the Treasury but insufficient, to date,  to sustain our alternative design

We have the result from the consultative ballot which shows very clearly that for members this remains a key issue – 91% Yes vote is an increase on the previous consultative ballot and reflects the very real frustration that teachers feel on this issue – not going away; anger intensifying.

UK Pension Bill is now an Act, of course, and its terms come into force in April 2015 – aside: only 29 MPs voted against on its third reading

3 groups of members: those aged 50 plus on April 2012 who are fully protected by the transitional arrangements which have been agreed, tapered protection applies to those who were 47.5 at that point also; those newer entrants to teaching who are part of the NPA 65 scheme – group that the Scottish variant would have assisted most; and the group who are currently NPA 60 but who will switch in April 2015 to a the new scheme NPA 65-68 – perhaps the group most put out by the changes

Around 20,000 members in this category

On the back of the ballot, we secured an urgent meeting with Cabinet Ministers John  Swinney and Mike Russell and we raised the arguments about this group of teachers, in particular, who had expected to retire at 60 and would now be working until 67/68 – clearly an unacceptable state of affairs and one that would be likely to have considerable impact on service delivery

This seemed to be accepted by the ministers and there was agreement that we should look at a potential separate mechanism for allowing this group of teachers to retire earlier than the new pension age but without significant detriment – not part of the pension scheme design but potentially it is a way to protect current pension entitlement for this significant cohort of members 

Also agreed that we would bring the Treasury actuaries to Scotland  in order that we might challenge their assumptions – meeting should have taken place last Monday but was postponed at the Treasury’s request

Essentially, that is where we are at the moment on this issue

The EIS entered these talks in good faith, and we wish to see them succeed. SG imposed a deadline of the end of June - we are prepared to keep talking up to and beyond that date -  but we need to see progress being made

Agreement is not possible on the basis of the default English proposal

SG has declared on a number of occasions that it doesn’t support the UK Pension changes – the sidebar discussion gives it an opportunity to deliver on that rhetoric, by protecting Scottish teachers from the main impact of the changes – in a way that it has failed to do with regard to contribution increases which have been enacted.

The EIS has a clear message to Mike Russell and John Swinney – progress must be made on pensions, or one way or another, this issue will remain centre stage all the way up to the referendum, and even beyond that

The choice colleagues is their’s

A second issue which has been a major focus is of course McCormac

McCormac report was published in Sept 2011 – 34 recommendations – not all of which we rejected of course – rec 33 retained SNCT which we agreed with- engaged in negotiations though sub groups

Recognise that considerable progress made in those discussions with some of COSLA’s agenda being negated: time and place remains protected, the notion that primary teachers should be responsible for their classes even when they are not teaching them has been side-lined; the proposed open flexibility around the division of the 35 hour week has been rejected

Two areas of contention remain of course, the replacement of Annexe E with a professional statement and the possibility of limited local agreement on time in lieu arrangements; these will be subject to a ballot of the members so I won’t comment further on them except to say that we should welcome debate on these matters at school and LA level because debate and discussion should be hallmarks of how we conduct ourselves in the EIS

We will take the time to talk to each other and arrive at our conclusion

Pay and supply
The SNCT has been involved, also, in considering this year’s pay claim 

Following AGM decisions, the EIS put on the table the issue of short term supply teachers as part of these discussions and we have made clear that we wish to see some progress in this area as part of the discussions

Difficult area because COSLA, short-sighted, has been largely resistant to revisiting this area

Clear – the current crisis in supply, short term supply in particular, is not simply a wages and conditions issue – it is having a direct impact on pupils’ learning and on the professional learning agenda – it is therefore, about service delivery, about the quality of the education being provided

Parents in particular should be concerned when pupils are having extended assemblies to cover for absent teachers or are being displaced to canteen areas because supply isn’t available, or being taught for extended periods by non-subject specialists – and these things are happening

The agreement which was made two years ago has had this unintended consequence on service delivery and therefore needs to be revisited COSLA and SG have a responsibility to seek a solution, with ourselves, to the problems being experienced.

COSLA needs to ‘get real’, COSLA needs to recognise  that there is a supply crisis in Scottish schools, and COSLA needs to seek agreement with us to deal with this situation 

We have had today a major discussion on workload – an area that both the primary and secondary CfE surveys highlighted as an area of growing concern from members

The April Council approved the development of a workload campaign and AGM has now confirmed this as a priority campaign for the union

The aim is clear –to realise a real time reduction in the workload burden for teachers and to allow time for teaching rather than the endless paper chase we see in schools and colleges at present

Spoke last year of the growing bureaucracy around CfE, for example, which is an indication of the lack of confidence of others and an unwillingness to trust the professionalism of teachers

We need to challenge that agenda – workload is a trade union issue but it is also a professional issue

Welcome the announcements of the Cabinet Secretary on this matter – action speaks louder than words – long way to go before our campaign aspiration is met 

We are as a profession, too acquiescent – need to assert our voice more and at all levels

The role of the EIS is to give teachers and lecturers the strength of the union in challenging poor practice wherever it occurs

Across the country we have over 2,000 EIS branch representatives – that’s a powerful force, a strong voice, that is the heart of our union

Unmatched organisational capacity in Scottish Education 

Again pay tribute to our school and college reps for the sterling work they all do on behalf of the membership

And also to our growing number of CPD reps, health and safety reps and now Equality reps

Professional officers cadres, superb administrative team  - staff meetings- improving service

Pay tribute to work of Graeme Campbell – welcome Leah Franchetti

Building membership engagement
Over the past year, colleagues, we have undertaken a look at some of processes and procedures, on-going, broadly banded together under a Building Membership Engagement

Series of workshops at Council, Executive and LA secs. training, we have a fringe event planned for today for delegates to AGM and especially for new delegates and those not on Council; FELA and ULA have been canvassed for their views, and later this month there will be a survey on the website for all members to feed in to the process.

All this activity is predicated on trying to refresh how we do things, to modernise where required, but above all else to provide pathways for members to be involved in the union at whatever level and in whatever capacity they are comfortable with

In meeting emphasise as GS don’t have a vote – union is its membership

One of the areas which has emerged from the discussions to date has been the importance of EIS involvement in CPD – both agitating for the provision of quality CPD opportunity from our employers but also our own involvement, as a professional association 

Marked by the work we have done through our CPD LR reps network, over 100 at the moment – colleagues who have put themselves forward to for the postgrad training in supporting other colleagues regarding the CPD agenda

Evidence is clear that this is an important engagement process for our members – only teacher organisation in Scotland to engage with this agenda

In the last year through the LR network over 17 events organised with well over 1,000 teachers, mainly EIS members, in attendance

Universally high evaluations from participants

As a union we need to engage with members on every platform we can – CPD agenda is clearly important

Continued to work in partnership with bodies such as ACTS, with the Universities, and with non-profit groups such as Tapestry

Education Committee will be considering how we further develop this area of work – both in terms of the service we deliver to members as part of the CPD agenda but also as a recruitment and retention strategy for the union.

I mention recruitment and retention which is a crucial area for any organisation – membership has fallen in recent past, largely as a result of the drop in teacher and lecturer numbers

Still represent over 80% of Scotland’s educators

However, we continue to recruit new members into our ranks and in fact during the course of the year we recorded a six year high in the number of new applications received

It’s sometimes observed that perhaps new teachers are less inclined to trade union membership than they were in the past – may or may not be true; certainly the case that in an increasingly litigious society, and faced in some areas with management styles that are less than supportive – 

There is a simple adage for new entrants to take on board and that is that they need to get the strength of the trade union around them

Members in schools and colleges best advert and advocates for the EIS

Speak to student teachers and probationers – engage them in the work of the union

Last SEJ carried an article looking back at the 80s and it reflected on the fact that many young activists of that period provided a vital leadership to the union over subsequent decades – which is true

But nothing stays the same – and many of those colleagues are now retired or moving towards it 

There’s a downside to losing that experience of course but there is also opportunity

Part of the re-engaging the membership agenda is concerned with succession planning

If we look at Council this year for example, 25 colleagues have retired (mostly) –significant number

Council has seen a turnover of 50% in the last 5 years

Number of council members over 60 has almost halved whilst those in their 40s has doubled

We have doubled the number of council members in their 20s – in practice that means we now have two rather than 1 but it is progress

Over 50 delegates here today are attending their first AGM

All of that renewal, colleagues,  is a sign of rude health

Profile of members and activists is changing quite dramatically – need to be aware of that and adapt our practice where required to ensure that we reap the benefits of that change not assume provide support and training

Colleagues, over the course of the year the EIS has represented its members on every front available: I’ve mentioned some of the negotiations we are involved in but we also are engaged in constructive dialogue with GTCS, with Education Scotland, National Implementation Board, Education Scotland, the SQA, both parent organisations and a host of other projects and fora

We play a role on the general council of the STUC and the TUC

We engage with Government – local and national

Our self-governing associations the ULA and FELA represent members in their respective sectors with ULA holding its first national strike day and FELA continuing  to defend the vital role of colleges in the face of savage budget cuts

And in all of this we have a single aim which is to bring into the discourse the voice of the profession

G Donaldson – used a quote from the McKinsey group’s report  ‘Best performing schools systems’

"The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers”

Struck me as  a truism which many others in the education world should pay attention to

Because it is you colleagues- you, the teachers of Scotland, you are what makes the difference in the lives of our young people 

Anne Marie Carrie, from Barnados, speaking at the excellent anti-poverty conference a few months ago, spoke of the teachers she remembered because they made a difference in her life – the male primary teacher who regularly  brought flowers into her classroom in Easterhouse, brought a little bit of colour; the small kindnesses to children facing difficult circumstances which boosted self- esteem, which gave a sense of worth

And that is what teachers continue to do today; that is what you do colleagues, that is what our members do on a daily basis

Teachers are trusted

If all directors of education stayed home on Monday, along with all the academics in our universities and the politicians on their committees – education, teaching and learning, would still happen in our schools

If you stay home – nothing happens

EIS members should be proud of the profession they have chosen; of the service they deliver; of the difference that they are making to our children and young people

Conclude with a simple message to politicians and policy makers – you will achieve nothing of worth unless you engage with the teaching profession, and the EIS is the authentic voice of that profession here in Scotland

Busy year behind and ahead - I’m certainly proud to have the privilege of serving the EIS as GS

And I am confident that in the face of the challenges which lie ahead, the EIS will continue to promote and defend both the welfare of Scottish teachers and the advancement of sound learning over this forthcoming year.