Exclusive:Education secretary Jenny Gilruth told to ‘do her own homework’ after being accused of failing to read another key document

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth has faced criticism following school violence interview

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth has been told to “do her own homework” after being accused of failing to read another key document.

The SNP minister was criticised at the weekend after she admitted in a BBC interview that she had not read a report by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union on the shocking scale of violence in Aberdeen schools.

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Now it has been claimed she “ignored” a letter by a different teaching union, the NASUWT, on the “crisis” of school staff workloads, and that she failed to read a significant report it referenced.

Education Secretary Jenny GilruthEducation Secretary Jenny Gilruth
Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth

Earlier this month, Conservative MSP Liam Kerr highlighted the initial recommendations of an English taskforce on reducing teacher workloads in Holyrood, asking Ms Gilruth which of the measures she proposed to implement in Scotland.

The education secretary, who is a former teacher, responded that she had “not seen that group for England, nor its recommendations”.

However, it has now been revealed that Mike Corbett, the NASUWT national official in Scotland, had written to Ms Gilruth to draw her attention to the recommendations just a week earlier.

Mr Kerr, Conservative education spokesman, said: “It seems that not reading key documents is a recurring habit for the Cabinet secretary.

“First Jenny Gilruth admitted that she was unaware of the workforce reduction task report, which had already been flagged to her, and [on Sunday] she admitted she hadn’t read the EIS report detailing the horrific violence teachers in Aberdeen have suffered.

"It’s time that this former teacher did her own homework and kept on top of her brief. Our hard-working teachers have been abandoned by the SNP, left languishing on temporary contracts and subjected to abuse in their workplace, all while trying their hardest to give our young people the best education possible with limited resources. They deserve better.”

In his letter, Mr Corbett pointed to a recent survey by the union showing 40 per cent of teachers reported their workload had increased significantly over the past year, and said teachers’ working hours were still “significantly beyond the suggested 35-hour week”, due mainly to administrative and clerical tasks, as well as data and assessment requirements.

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He said: “Unusually, England seems to have been more pro-active in this regard and its workload reduction taskforce has announced recommendations to address workload pressures, including reinserting a list of bureaucratic tasks that teachers and leaders should not be expected to do into the school teachers’ pay and conditions document.”

Mr Corbett said Scotland previously had an equivalent list of clerical and administrative tasks teachers would not be expected to do, which was removed from the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers handbook in 2011, but could be “similarly reinserted”.

He also raised concerns there was “little evidence” the SNP’s pledge to reduce teacher class-contact time by 90 minutes per week would be met.

Mr Corbett, who is still to receive a reply to the letter, wrote to Ms Gilruth in January, saying: “While we have welcomed your acknowledgments in recent meetings with NASUWT that giving teachers additional time could help to address some of the current challenges in the Scottish education system, in the absence of concrete and tangible actions many teachers are at or beyond breaking point.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Education Secretary has engaged with NASUWT this week on potential workload implications for any changes to the qualifications resulting from reform, which will require to be managed carefully. And far from ignoring the letter Mr Kerr refers to, the NASUWT have been offered a further meeting with the Cabinet Secretary to discuss these matters further.

“Issues around teacher workload are considered by the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, the body responsible for terms and conditions for teachers in Scotland.”



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