Teachers in Scotland may need to take action if no progress is made in reducing the “excessive workload and bureaucracy” union leaders say have “plagued” the profession for decades.
Phil Jackson, outgoing president of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), yesterday demanded the Scottish Government, councils and education chiefs deliver on promises to cut red tape and lighten workloads.
He warned that education in Scotland was “at a crossroads”.
Mr Jackson criticised the “work-until-you-drop mentality” imposed on the profession along with decreasing job security and real-terms pay cuts.
He also insisted that teachers and pupils should “never again” have to “endure the stress and pressure they have this year” as a result of the introduction of the new National exams, which have replaced Standard Grades.
His comments came in an address to the EIS annual meeting in Perth.
“We truly are at a crossroads in education where government must choose what its priorities are,” he told union members.
Mr Jackson said the Scottish Government must decide if it wanted “properly resourced schools” and “a properly supported and trusted teaching profession” which “does not feel that its health and wellbeing and work-life balance are being compromised by ridiculous and unsustainable demands”.
He added: “Excessive workload and bureaucracy have plagued our profession for decades. We need to see some tangible progress. If not, we need to be prepared to take further action.” He said: “The truth is this work-until-you-drop mentality coupled with decreasing job security and real-terms pay cuts will not attract artistic and creative people, nor high-quality graduates, to our profession.”
He argued that whatever the result of the independence referendum, inaction, he said, “is not an option”.
He said that while in the future staff may be “pressganged into working to 68”, he believed increasing the retirement age had been “a step too far” which would exacerbate the problem of “teacher burnout”.
He pointed out that teachers had called for the introduction of the National exams to be put back, adding: “If the voice of the EIS has been listened to and had a year’s delay allowed, I believe we, and more importantly the young people of Scotland and their parents, would be in a better place than we are now.”
The Scottish Qualifications Authority exams body and the government, he said, “must get it right next time”, adding: “What happened this year cannot happen again. Never again must pupils and their teachers have to endure the stress and pressure they have this year.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have listened to concerns and are working with EIS and other partners to tackle unnecessary paperwork to free teachers to concentrate on what they do best – the delivery of teaching and learning of Scotland’s young people.
“Education Scotland and the EIS are holding a series of joint events on tackling bureaucracy, which are receiving very positive feedback.”