Created on: 11 Jun 2022 | Last modified: 14 Jun 2022
Good morning, Colleagues
I hope you found the film as inspiring as I did. Great to hear the voices of women activists reflecting on the struggles that they’ve encountered and won.
It’s a good reminder of how far we’ve come on the road to gender equality. Just look - all three of our office bearers, for the second year in a row, are women. But there’s a distance that we still have to travel together to achieve gender equality in the workplace and in wider society.
Several of the motions debated yesterday underlined the fact that we still have a long way to go towards equality. Equality for the sisters in our movement and in our families, for our mothers and grandmothers, for our daughters and the girls and young women that we teach.
And for the boys in our classes, our own sons and the men that we know who too often are under pressure to conform to hyper-masculinised gender norms that are oppressive for them as well as for the women and girls around them.
Particularly after the setbacks of the pandemic globally there’s a lot of ground to be recovered. And given the EIS’s strong track record on the equality front, and heartened by the turnout and participation at the Equality fringe yesterday, I’m looking forward to continuing our onward journey alongside you, our activists, with equality even stronger at our core and at the heart of our collective bargaining.
Colleagues, it’s a real pleasure and an absolute honour to be addressing you this morning as a First time speaker as General Secretary Designate. The very first time I spoke at AGM was in this hall - at my first AGM as a member of the South Lanarkshire delegation – maybe about 15 years ago. When I moved a motion on support for refugees and I think Tom Tracey might have shouted ‘Further heard!’
It was so moving yesterday, hearing so many voices continuing our commitment to speaking up for refugees and asylum seekers, that’s something that’s emblematic of our union and something that I’m incredibly proud of. For today, Larry asked me to talk a bit about my priorities for the future. I’ll do that in a minute. But I want to start by acknowledging the strong legacy that Larry will be leaving us as a strong campaigning union and as a professional association of significant standing in Scottish Education.
There can be no doubt that the last ten of our 175 years with Larry as General Secretary have made us stronger. Made from girders! In that 10 years, Larry’s leadership has been as much about encouraging leadership amongst our members as it has been about his own individual skills and talents…and there are many, many of them and they’ll be missed.
From EIS Headquarters to our individual branches Larry’s legacy gives us firm foundations to build on and I want to record my gratitude to him for that as the next General Secretary, as an EIS member, as a trade unionist and as a teacher.
Firm foundations to build what? Well - everything you’ve been talking so passionately and eloquently about over the past two days and for quite a few years before this.
But it’s the morning after the night before so I’m not going to go over all of the ground that you’ve already covered. I’m going to talk about just a few of the areas where I think we need to go full pelt.
The obvious and pressing priority is our Pay Attention campaign. We’ve staked our claim, nailed our colours to the mast and the incoming Vice President has even got her nails done in Pay Attention campaign colours. So now we need to win: for pay justice - for gender pay justice given our demographic - and for union power. And listening to our speakers on the issue of pay over the past couple of days, I know we’ve got what it takes to win this.
To win it because it’s simply unacceptable that teachers and other public sector workers would be expected to bear the burden of yet another crisis that’s been created by the economic vandalism of the Tory government and a Cabinet of millionaires, utterly morally bankrupt and more intent on callous racketeering and profiteering than they are on caring about people and supporting recovery.
Colleagues, comrades - this has to be another one of those ‘no pasaran’ moments in our trade union history. We can’t let these people with their anti-human ideology do this to us. Not just for ourselves, because if they can do this to us as professionals and as organised trade unionists, what more will they try and get away with doing to the people who are least able to fight back, the parents and carers of the poorest young people that we teach?
More hunger and food insecurity, more health inequalities, more mental health anguish, more poverty and poverty-related stigma in our schools and colleges and poorer experiences and outcomes and fewer life chances for the poorest of our young citizens.
So this pay campaign is as much about the EIS playing its part in fighting back against the Tory assault on the lives and dignity of working people and those who can’t work, while they and their cronies are raking in billions off the back of Brexit, Covid and every other opportunity to accumulate wealth at the expense of the rest of us, as it is about winning a pay rise for teachers themselves.
And we can’t allow COSLA to peddle the myth of the one workforce agenda. Or the Scottish government to quietly sit there on the side-lines being let off the hook by a raft of egalitarian-sounding rhetoric that’s in truth about pay suppression for teachers and by dint of that the rest of the public sector.
We know one workforce is utter fallacy and I have a sense that the other public sector unions know it as well. I heard a UNISON colleague speak at this year’s May day demo in Glasgow about the chicanery of COSLA on the one workforce agenda and knew that we should be talking to them and other unions about how we dismantle this mythology.
We’ve got a meeting set up with UNISON next week where we’ll be looking to explore how we can fight together on public sector pay as one trade union movement within our own individual collective bargaining fora.
For all that as a profession we’re in the early stages of recovery from the pandemic – to quote our Inverclyde colleague - we’ve only just begun. Our Pay Attention campaign needs us to be fighting fit. If we’re to win a pay rise that protects teachers’ incomes from the worst of the cost of living increases, from every corner of the union, we need to keep building what will be a formidable display of our union strength.
We’ve started building this - the press statements, the campaign materials, the branch meetings, the petition, the social media activity, the well judged percussive response to the Cabinet Secretary yesterday, and the demo outside this building later this morning. All of this building from our strong foundations and using our well-toned muscle memory from the 2018-19 pay campaign to win this one too.
With full-blown organising, comms and political campaigning, synchronicity of actions with local associations, we’ll be ballot ready, strike ready by October, with a strong industrial action strategy mapped out so that we’re strike ready and strike able.
From the speeches and applause we’ve heard this AGM about pay and the other inter-related injustices it sounds like you’re well up for taking this on - and so am I!
You’ve already been busy engaging members in your schools over these past weeks and after a well-deserved summer break when EIS HQ will still be working behind the scenes, we’ll be asking you, our activists, to continue building the campaign. We’ll let COSLA and the Scottish Government see that we never stop. We’ll let our members see that we never stop, and we won’t stop until we have that 10%.
Some of you might have picked up a wee bit of Ange Postecoglou creeping in there. Dedicated followers of football or not, we want all of our members to get involved in the Pay Attention campaign. No bystanders, no wallflowers. Some gentle persuasion here, some cajoling there, some outright requests to take on a role over there too - no bystanders. This pay claim is for everyone. We need to make sure that all our members are included in the pay campaign activities and all other activity too.
We need to keep working to support and engage our members from typically under-represented groups - our disabled, Black Asian and Minority Ethnic and LGBT members. All of our members’ voices need to be included in the cacophony that will be demanding a cost of living pay increase for teachers and who by rights deserve more than 10%. 10% is restrained given what you’re still owed after a decade or more of relative overall pay decline!
And when we win that, it’ll be a win for all public sector workers. As you know colleagues, in the trade union movement, we’re about equalising up, not allowing ourselves to be bargained down.
As I said, I want us to be equality focused in the Pay Attention campaign and equality focused and inclusive in all aspects of our work. That’s a core element of our trade union identity – a commitment that makes us who we are. Another thing that makes us who we are is the strength of our professional expertise - our knowledge about learning, teaching and assessment and about what can actually deliver social justice in the classroom.
You know and I know that smaller class sizes are key to that. That having fewer young people in our classes enables more quality interactions, greater one to one support, more creativity and calmer environments that support the inclusion of learners with diverse needs. We know that smaller classes are fundamental to reducing the poverty-related achievement gap. And of course, class sizes of 20 could make a significant dent in the excessive workload of our members.
So I want to help us realise the vision of our 20:20 campaign. Map out every campaigning opportunity and take every political chance to press on class size and class contact reduction. This is about social justice for our young people and it’s about Fair Work for teachers whose workload continues to be off the scale. It’s way past time for politicians and employers to tackle the workload that’s driving our members’ stress and literally making hundreds if not thousands of them ill.
The Cabinet Secretary’s speech yesterday was pathetically weak on this front. Some lip service acknowledgment of the effort of teachers during the pandemic, then a failure to give assurances that the promised extra 1.5 hours contact time would be protected for teachers’ own use. She came yesterday with nothing. No crisis response to teacher workload in spite of the fact that teachers have been on the frontline of the crisis response to Covid for the past two and a half years.
Larry and I gave her a strong step for a hint earlier this week that she should have come yesterday with some good news. Something to salve the pain. She came with nothing but lukewarm words that poured salt on the wounds. Colleagues, after yesterday’s ominous response to the question on class contact reduction, the Scottish Government and employers need to be on notice that we’re coming after 20:20 and they better be ready.
Colleagues, as you’ve also been saying over these couple of days, we need to take action to end the scandal of under-resourcing of ASN. As so much of this AGM’s debate has underlined, what’s been going on in ASN over the past decade is another educational and industrial injustice. A national disgrace. Young people disadvantaged and distressed, violent incidents, parents let down and teachers shouldering the workload and emotional burden of all of it. We can’t go on and on just accepting this.
We’ve done the consultation responses, we’ve been on the working groups, we’ve given the evidence to the Scottish Parliament, to Angela Morgan - been there, done all that and still the Scottish Government and local authorities are body-swerving the real issues. We need to think seriously about how we can step up campaigning on ASN so that all young people can participate fully in education, can enjoy it and can benefit from it as is their entitlement and indeed their human right.
And for our members, this is another fair work issue that we need to campaign vigorously to resolve. Government demands that teachers close the poverty related attainment gap. The EIS is signed up to the mission in so far as schools can mitigate the poverty that politicians create, but we’re clear that to accomplish the mission, teachers can’t have their hands tied behind their backs - too few ASN specialists, not nearly enough multi-agency expertise to hand, and no one listening when teachers gather and present the evidence that says a child needs extra support.
We need enough good quality ASN provision - no more passing the buck between the Scottish Government and local authorities on whose job it is to provide it. No more dissembling. Without the resources to deliver proper ASN provision the promise of the ASL Act is a hollow one, everyone knows it and we need to start shouting even louder on this.
To campaign seriously alongside parents and third sector organisations for the resources that are needed to support the most vulnerable members of our school communities. Education reform gives us a platform to build on the gains that we’ve won in the Education Reform process so far and we need to seize every opportunity that it offers to advance our objectives.
On ASN, as I’ve said. On proper staffing of early years education to include qualified teachers. To increase the ethnic diversity of the profession - building on last year’s AGM resolution to push local authorities to do more on this. For the empowerment of teachers and the professional trust that must underpin that. Making sure that we influence the future of inspections while we still have them - getting rid of scores on the doors - education isn’t a game show.
Going after what CfE promised on curriculum design, decluttering the primary curriculum once and for all and redesigning the senior phase assessment and qualifications for breadth, depth and enjoyment of learning, sound assessment and parity of esteem between so called vocational and academic learning and qualifications.
Making sure that the replacement of the SQA isn’t a superficial rebrand or a retro-fit but a complete demolition and new build with EIS voice at the heart of the new governance arrangements. Making sure that the replacement body for Education Scotland is one that actually does what it’s supposed to and provide meaningful professional guidance and support on curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, again with teacher trade union voice at the heart of governance to make sure this happens.
Colleagues, we’re already right in about the Hayward Review and are poised for the next stages of the Education Reform process beyond that. Thanks to all those of you who’ve already signed up to be involved in the next stages of our work. Over the next weeks and months we’ll be looking for more of you to share your thinking on reform. While there’s a lot to do in the short term around early years and school education, I’m committed to taking on the challenges in Further and Higher Education too.
To continue working with FELA on GTCS registration for lecturers as a way of pushing back against dysfunctional college management that looks to undermine the professionalism of lecturers and plays fast and loose with lecturers’ terms and conditions at every turn. And with EIS-ULA in response to the funding crisis that’s driving casualisation and driving down pay. I want to work with all of you.
Finally, colleagues, I think we need to think about recovery for everyone who makes this union work. Everyone will be familiar with the motto for the City of Glasgow - 'People make Glasgow’. People make this union - the reps, the activists, the EIS staff. All of those people make this union what it is, and as we all try to recover from the impact of the pandemic, and to support our membership to do the same, I’d like us to explore what we want our own recovery to look like.
How we might build in more pastoral support for reps and staff who’re doing difficult work to support members who’re in a fragile emotional state, how we can create more opportunities to bring reps and activists together for learning and networking opportunities and how we support EIS staff to keep doing the brilliant work that they do in the service of the union and its members.
All of this, colleagues, so that we never stop.