• Good afternoon colleagues

  • A warm welcome to around 30 first time delegates to AGM; we are very pleased to see you here – hope that you enjoy conference, and that it acts as a catalyst to your further involvement in the work of the union (50 first time delegates last year)
  • Coincidentally, that figure of 30 is the number of colleagues coming off Council this year – most because they are heading into retirement. Thank you for your contribution. Includes three former Presidents - Jack Kay and David – miss your experience and counsel but I hope that you enjoy retirement (haven’t met many who haven’t!)
  • Challenge of filling the gap – but we are more than up for that; managed for 168 years; we will continue to do so
  • Whilst referring to activism – may I once again pay tribute to our school reps; in what has been a really challenging year, they once again provide this union with its real backbone
  • One of the reasons I enjoyed coming to EIS AGM, apart from the thrust of debate and the general craic, was the fact that it signalled that the end was in sight – the cyclical school session was nearly over for another year
  • Absolutely certain delegates, that as teachers and lecturers, you will most certainly be looking forward to this summer break
  • As, too, will be all of your colleagues back in your schools and institutions
  • Say that with certainty because it is absolutely clear that the workload tsunami that has engulfed Scottish Education this past year has left many members on their knees
  • I’ve made the point in various fora over this session, that workload pressure is not something new for teachers, for most of us it has been a constant backdrop to our professional lives
  • But in 33 years as a classroom teacher and now two years and a bit as General Secretary, I have never witnessed the levels of exhaustion and despair that have been so evident amongst teachers this year
  • That is testified to by the hard evidence contained in our recent survey on teacher well-being and job satisfaction

 

  • Only 1 in 3 teachers and lecturers satisfied with their job
  • Only 1 in 4 who enjoy a sense of high well-being
  • Only 1 in 5 who feel that they have good work/life balance
  • Only 1 in 10 who are satisfied with workload at present

 

  • These are sobering, even shocking statistics colleagues
  • Scottish Education needs, and our children and young people deserve to be taught by – a highly motivated, highly respected cadre of professional educators
  • But let me read from the conclusion of the report, as to the true state of affairs

 

  • All in all it appears that teachers and lecturers feel that they are climbing a never ending mountain that makes more and more demands of them, with little prospect of respite!

 

  • Responses therefore show that teachers and lecturers, as well as being dissatisfied, do not feel that they are being heard, valued as professionals or given the support they require.
  • As a result, the bank of goodwill that drives their overall vocation to remain in the profession is steadily decreasing and their warning [our warning] is that it is not limitless and will indeed run out.

 

  • All of this, colleagues, serves to underline the importance of our workload campaign and the need to continue with it and indeed intensify it where required
  • To date we have succeeded in placing the workload issue centre stage but progress in achieving the campaign aim, that real time reduction, is still too limited
  • The Tackling Bureaucracy report is an important document for us
  • It was published last November but hard copies in schools February – then need to arrange meetings – a slow process
  • Number of members have commented favourably on its contents and recommendations – which I think are clear and unambiguous - not a hallmark of anything CFE related
  • But two key points to be made.

 

  • Firstly the very existence of the document is testimony to the fact that CfE implementation has not been all that it should have been - poor practice identified is real, despite the relentless good news story from local and national government
  • Second – is that this is just a piece of paper – unless it is acted upon

 

  • Everyone in Scottish Education signed up to this document – recall meeting in September – looking for hard evidence that it has been used to curtail the workload associated with that bureaucratic pressure - influenced SIP (School Improvement Plans) and WTA (Working Time Agreements)
  • I repeat a message that I have been iterating in our workload meetings – to reduce workload teachers need to stop doing something
  • Stop trying to do everything because that way workload will never decrease
  • Role of the union – to provide the collective strength for members to say No
  • Campaign slogan – Act Now Act Together
  • The survey reveals the constancy of workload pressure across all sectors from nursery through to Higher Education but it also offers clear evidence that the issue has been at its severest this year in secondary education - clearly linked to the introduction of the new qualifications
  • The exam diet has just concluded and thankfully no major issues have been reported around the National 5, although there are some subject specific items to be pursued, candidates can expect their result in due course – don’t anticipate problems in that area but of course the exams themselves were probably the most straightforward part of the year; getting to them has been the challenge
  • The experience this year for both pupils and staff has been unacceptable and frankly is unsustainable
  • The fact is that Scottish teachers have worked to breaking point and beyond to deliver these qualifications, and should be applauded for that, should not obscure the point that this is no way to manage change in our curriculum
  • SQA and others need to be held to account for what has been a visceral experience in our schools this session
  • Welcome the fact that some changes are already happening – unit verification for example
  • Reflections group due to report next week with both short and longer term recommendations
  • But I think we should be absolutely clear that this past year is not what the CfE Senior Phase was meant to be about

 

  • Aims:
  • reduce assessment burden for staff and pupils – fail
  • maintain breadth across the senior phase – fail
  • promote deeper learning – fail
  • parity of esteem to vocational options – fail

 

  • What has been done at the moment is little more than swapping the Credit and General for National 4 and 5 and if that is that changes CfE senior phase will have been a monumental waste of time
  • Lone voice for most of the time in calling for the qualifications to be delayed - but we were right colleagues
  • Lesson to be learned – listen to the practitioners, listen to the profession
  • EIS is the voice of the profession – represent all sectors
  • Trade Union but also professional association
  • International evidence is clear that high performing education systems have strong and influential teacher trade unions – provide the challenge
  • Like to make a point about professional unity – EIS offers a model for an education union: all sectors all grades; absolute imperative that trade unions work together (England and Ireland); strong partnership working with our sister union the SSTA – hope we can build on that
  • The importance of that professional voice is a theme that has been explored in the series of professional update events that have been held over the past session – spoken at around 20 events in last year – well attended, productive meetings
  • Clear that professional learning is an area of interest and engagement for members, and we are taking that forward through various partnership approaches
  • Professional Update launches in August of this for all teachers – congratulate the GTCS for how they have taken this forward because the scheme that we are looking at is a million miles removed from the "5 year MOT for teachers” that was first being discussed and which is likely to the approach adopted south of the border
  • EIS has to a degree reserved its position, however
  • Done so for the specific reason that it is one thing to have an agreed paper policy of PRD and quite another to see that realised in practice
  • Litmus test will be how local authorities deliver their side of the bargain in terms of resourcing CPD opportunities – time is a key resource
  • Challenge in time of austerity a very real one
  • Made the point in all of the PU meetings that in Scottish Education there is a persistent gap between policy and practice, between the rhetoric and the reality of as experience by practitioners
  • Closing that gap is the challenge – local authority directorates – ghost at the feast
  • COSLA / ADES – hard to pin down
  • Directorate faculties
  • Local authorities have to demonstrate where they are adding value to the process
  • Colleagues, I would like to turn briefly to a few other areas before finishing
  • The first is to welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s invitation to the EIS to participate in the recently announced Review of the Early Years Workforce
  • Childcare and Early Years education is enjoying a rare moment in the political sun at this time; each of the political parties seeks to outbid each other in terms of who has the most progressive policy
  • Through the STUC, the EIS has always supported, and will continue to support, progress in this crucial area and we recognise the benefits and equality issues involved in enabling parents, mainly mothers, to participate in employment
  • But we are also mindful of the rights of the child and we are clear that childcare Is not the same as education
  • We will continue to campaign therefore for the crucial role of nursery education, and nursery teachers, as part of the pre-5 experience which children are entitled to
  • At the other end of the education spectrum, I think AGM should recognise the sterling work done by our ULA and FELA SGAs in exposing the scandal of zero hours contracts
  • And a particular commendation, if they will accept it from a full-time union official, to our FELA negotiators who have successfully created the framework for a return to National Collective bargaining in the FE sector
  • No small feat of negotiation - congratulations to all involved
  • We recently published our manifesto for the referendum – some of you may be looking forward to the lunch-time fringe event – debate between the two campaigns
  • We have been careful to respect the different attitudes that undoubtedly will exist amongst our membership - teachers are as liable to be divided on the issue as the rest of the population
  • Interesting to note that the almost wholly devolved nature of Scottish Education might be cited as a case in point for both sides of the debate
  • No camp can point to it and say that it shows how devolution works, certainly true that devolution, and a sense of our own history, has seen Scotland develop a very different model of education from that south of the border – here seen as a societal good
  • Gove continues to destroy comprehensive education and prime schools for a future privatisation agenda
  • On the other hand the Yes campaign can equally cite our education system as an example of what might be achieved where control is Scottish based – Scottish Government has not been slow to point the finger at UK austerity programmes and in particular pension changes
  • People will make their choice
  • To date however, there has been insufficient focus on defining the type of Scotland we wish to live in rather than simply arguing about the constitutional arrangement
  • Not neutral; believe we should have a passionate interest in this debate; seeking to define the type of Scotland we wish to live in - frankly much more important than the constitutional question per se
  • The Common Weal report helpfully set out its vision for a future Scotland last week and although it leans towards one constitutional settlement its ideas are not exclusive to it
  • That was a Scotland which is based on shared values such as equity, fairness, and social justice; a society where participative democracy – active citizenship was the norm
  • These are the same values which underpin the new GTCS standards
  • The values which imbue our policy debates
  • Values that as a trade union and a professional association that we need to assert at every opportunity
  • Survey indicated that the one area of work which teachers found almost universally rewarding was their relationships with the young people we teach
  • We need the type of Scotland, irrespective of the referendum result, where those young people are allowed to flourish
  • The EIS has a long history, 168 years, of being a proud civic voice in Scottish life
  • Continue to speak up, even shout out
  • For the interests of Scotland’s children and young people, and indeed their families who trust so much in our Education system
  • to speak up and shout out for Scottish teachers and lecturers
  • to speak up and shout out in the interest of social justice in our society.
  • Believe that is a challenge that the EIS is more than capable of rising to.