Teachers to vote over schools strike action
TEACHERS will be asked to vote for strike action next week over the Scottish Government’s refusal to delay the introduction of controversial new exams.
Members of Scotland’s biggest teaching union, the EIS, will hear a call for an “immediate ballot” on industrial action if education minister Mike Russell does not agree to postpone the introduction of the National Qualifications.
The vote, to be taken at the annual general meeting of the EIS, could lead to teachers staging a strike early in the new school year. Teachers will vote on a motion being put forward by members from Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire, which calls for the union to enter into negotiations with the Scottish Government and local authorities.
It adds: “Where a [one-year] delay cannot be agreed, this AGM calls for an immediate ballot for industrial action up to and including strike action.”
Last month, teachers criticised a national audit of readiness for Scotland’s new exams, accusing it of ignoring their concerns about the new qualifications.
Education Scotland said its “deep audit” into the level of preparedness for the new National Qualifications showed that delivery of the exams was on track, with no need for a delay.
However, the EIS said the exercise had shown a “depressing” lack of interest in the views of teachers, many of whom warn that schools are not ready to implement the qualifications.
Due for introduction next year as part of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), the new qualifications will replace Standard Grades and Intermediates in Scotland’s schools. The union says many teachers are worried they are unprepared for them.
In a further rebuke to Scotland’s new curriculum, which was introduced in 2010, teachers will hear a call for their union to withdraw its support for CfE altogether in secondary schools.
Tina Woolnough, of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said some parents had concerns about their children becoming “guinea pigs” in the new system, but she added this did not mean they agreed to a delay.
She said: “I can’t believe this is coming up again. I certainly feel as a parent that the unions have had everything they have asked for – they are getting two extra in-service days to prepare and extra funding. They really need to get on with it. We can’t have children in S1, S2 and S3 hanging in the air like this.”
East Renfrewshire Council, which is home to some of the country’s best-performing state schools, has already said it will delay the introduction of the new exams by a year to give teachers more time to prepare.
Education Scotland said its audit had failed to identify any other schools or individual subject departments that had requested a similar delay. However, it said of 367 secondary schools in Scotland, it had identified 21 departments making “limited progress”, while teaching unions had picked out a further 11 that were struggling.
Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “We should not be in this situation at all. It is perfectly in order for individual departments to ask for a delay if they are not ready.
“I don’t agree with strike action, but I think the EIS and the SSTA (Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association) have a point. If a school wants to delay, it should be able to do so.”
Last November, Scottish teachers staged their first strike in 25 years, over proposed changes to their pensions. While anger over pensions has not dissipated, the key issue among many in the profession currently is the increased workload associated with CfE and whether pupils will suffer due to a lack of readiness for the new exams.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Education Scotland’s audit on the readiness of secondary schools to deliver the new National Qualifications was published on 23 May and has shown there is no need for a whole-school delay.
“Teaching unions contributed to the audit, EIS identified nine schools and SSTA two schools that required additional support. This has helped Education Scotland to highlight places where additional support is required, and they are now delivering that support.”
He added: “We will continue to work with teachers and all other partners to keep implementation under review and ensure we stay on track in every subject and in every school and get on with implementing Curriculum for Excellence.”
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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