EIS Campaigns on Teacher Numbers Protecting teacher numbers has been a major focus of EIS activity in the recent period.
HE EIS was blunt in its warning to the Scottish Government over any potential abandonment of its commitments to maintain teacher numbers and lower class sizes and wrote directly to Finance Minister John Swinney and Education Secretary Angela Constance to raise our concerns on the terms of the local authority budget settlement, announced late last year, in which no mention was made of funding for these two long-standing policy commitments. Early local authority budget statements have indicated that education is poised to suffer deep cuts this year and local authority group COSLA has already made clear its desire to further cut teacher numbers, with a subsequent increase in class sizes. Indeed, COSLA‘s public statements indicated a worrying cost-cutting agenda – including threats to teacher numbers through a cut to the length of the primary school week, a move which would be fiercely resisted by the EIS. In a letter to both Cabinet members the EIS expressed the view that the budget settlements seemed to grant local authorities license to attack teacher numbers and increase class sizes
and brought into doubt the Scottish Government’s professed commitments to Scotland’s pupils, parents and teachers despite its previous statements about accepting the importance of maintaining teacher numbers to ensure a sound learning environment and high-quality educational experience for pupils. We have already seen class sizes increase across Scotland – and that was with guarantees on teacher numbers in place. With the potential removal of these protections, councils would be able to cut back still further on teaching staff numbers with damaging consequences for young people in our classrooms. The EIS is clear that whilst others can talk about working to agree a new set of measures based on ‘educational outcomes’, the fact of the matter is you cannot deliver outcomes without sufficient input – and that means investment
“the fact of the
matter is you cannot deliver outcomes without sufficient input – and that means investment to ensure there are sufficient numbers of teachers working with pupils in the classroom.”
The Scottish Educational Journal
“With the potential
removal of these protections, councils would be able to cut back still further on teaching staff numbers with damaging consequences for young people in our classrooms”
to ensure there are sufficient numbers of teachers working with pupils in the classroom. The EIS is pleased to report that the response of the Scottish Government was to acknowledge the merit of the concerns raised by the EIS, to reiterate its belief that teacher numbers had to be maintained in line with pupil rolls, and to indicate that it was working with COSLA to establish a mechanism to achieve that aim. Those discussions have resulted in a proposal which will see teacher numbers protected in line with the current figures, 2014/15, with teacher pupil ratios also maintained and monitored. To support compliance with these targets, local authorities will be allocated additional funding for maintaining the figures (a carrot rather than the current stick of threatened sanctions). This marks a significant victory for the EIS and for Scotland’s teachers, schools and pupils. It has been achieved by utilising the collective voice and strength of the union to highlight the concerns of teachers, by the Union’s willingness to engage constructively with politicians and by the recognition from others that the EIS is the voice of Scottish teachers.
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