Coronavirus in Scotland: Teaching union calls for ‘education-led recovery’ from pandemic

Scotland’s largest teaching union has called for an “education-led recovery” from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has launched a manifesto calling for a progressive expansion of the teaching workforce so class sizes can be reduced and to put an end to zero-hours supply lists.

Ahead of the Holyrood election in May it is calling on all political parties to commit in their manifestos to delivering the investment required to make education recovery possible.

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The manifesto, entitled For an Education Led Recovery, outlines EIS policy in key areas including early years education, primary and secondary schools, additional support needs (ASN), instrumental music, the impact of poverty and tackling inequality.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Education has been at the centre of political discourse in Scotland for some time, with most political parties expressing commitment to improving the life chances of Scotland’s pupils and students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Unfortunately, unanimity has spread little beyond that broad objective and Scotland’s teachers and lecturers have felt that education has more often been a political football than the subject of a shared national ambition.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare some of the deep inequalities in our society, but also the absolutely essential role that schools and educational establishments play in the nurturing and development of our children; in supporting the well-being and resilience of young people and students; and in the provision of pathways for achievement and attainment for all.

“In calling for an education-led recovery from the impact of the pandemic, the EIS demands from all political parties commitments to concrete policies and the necessary investment which will restore and build upon the solid foundations of Scotland’s education system and support progress to a fairer, more equitable and more just Scotland.”

Jacqui Milliner teaching her P1 pupils on their first day back at Inverkip Primary School.

Mr Flanagan said more than one in 10 teachers are on temporary contracts or zero hours supply staff lists.

Expanding the workforce is one of the key demands in the manifesto, with an ultimate target of reducing class sizes to a maximum of 20 pupils.

Mr Flanagan said: “The challenge around education recovery is immense and if we are to meet the needs of young people, Scotland needs more teachers.

“This would help to reduce class sizes, ensuring that students receive tailored support that meets their needs; it would enable an increase in the specialist provision required for young people with additional support needs; it would support our pupils and students who have suffered a traumatic experience during the pandemic, with the impact often being felt most acutely by young people already facing disadvantage caused by poverty.”

The EIS is also calling for statutory public sector provision of nursery education and guaranteed minimum access to qualified teachers for all three to five-year-olds within early years provision, and free instrumental music tuition for all school pupils who wish to learn an instrument.

It also calls for increased specialist staffing in ASN and mainstream settings to better meet the needs of pupils with ASN and the universal provision of free school meals, including over holiday periods, for all nursery and school-aged children.

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