Five key things to emerge from Scottish teaching leader's speech - school violence, strikes and John Swinney

EIS general secretary outlines teaching union’s demands

The head of Scotland’s largest teaching union issued a series of warnings to the Scottish Government ahead of a new phase in the battle to improve pay and conditions for school staff.

Andrea Bradley, the general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), delivered her keynote address to the union’s annual meeting in Dundee’s Caird Hall on Friday, while unveiling its manifesto for the coming UK election

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It comes amid ongoing concerns over the safety and wellbeing of teachers, frustration over the failure to deliver key Government education policies and reforms, and as the latest round of pay negotiations intensify.

The Scotsman was in Dundee to hear the speech and has picked out some of the key messages from the general secretary’s address.

Fresh teacher strikes could be looming

It was announced on Wednesday the teachers’ panel of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) had unanimously rejected a pay offer made by council umbrella body Cosla.

The offer was a rise of 2 per cent from August 2024, followed by a further 1 per cent in May 2025. The SNCT had asked for 6.5 per cent across all grades for 2024/25. The Scotsman understands there is a feeling among some senior figures that a move to industrial action should happen earlier in the process than during the first national strike action by teachers in Scotland over pay for four decades in 2022/23, which eventually led to a new deal.

EIS general secretary Andrea BradleyEIS general secretary Andrea Bradley
EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley | Contributed

Ms Bradley did not directly say this, but her speech was peppered with references to the benefits of industrial action and warnings over pay, both in relation to college lecturers, but also teachers. She said: “Industrial action delivers better outcomes for workers. You wouldn’t have won your last pay rise without it.”

Ms Bradley added: “We don’t buy the rhetoric that ‘striking’s in no one’s interests’ ... because industrial action is clearly in the interests of workers, including teachers and lecturers. And that’s what employers and centre to right governments are afraid of.”

Specifically on the current negotiations, Ms Bradley said: “We don’t accept that pay restoration for teachers is not affordable, especially not when teachers are owed millions for the unpaid work they’ve been doing for years and continue to do today.” She added: “No matter what employers and SG decide to do this time around when it comes to teacher pay ... our collective trade union conscience will be clear.”

The EIS is refusing to sign-off on school violence action plan

An action plan for tackling rising violence in Scotland’s schools was supposed to have been produced by the Scottish Government and Cosla at the start of the year, but it has still not emerged.

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One possible reason for the hold-up was revealed in Ms Bradley’s speech. She said the union had been “crystal clear” that its logo will not be attached to the plan if it “fails to identify any additional resourcing to solve the problem of violence and aggression in our schools”.

“No resources attached to the action plan, no EIS logo attached to the action plan - it’s as simple as that,” she said.

“So colleagues - a straightforward message from this AGM to the Scottish Government: wishful thinking and a glossy, shiny action plan will not lead to better behaviour-related health and safety in our classrooms. Additional government money to recruit more staff will.”

First Minister John Swinney is being challenged to intervene

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth was supposed to be speaking at the EIS annual meeting on Friday, but pulled out because of the election campaign. Ms Gilruth was not mentioned by name in Ms Bradley’s speech, but her new boss, Mr Swinney, was.

The union leader highlighted a series of SNP manifesto commitments which are in doubt, including the delivery of 3,500 extra teachers and classroom assistants, and promises from 2018 to reduce teacher workload and improve wellbeing, made when Mr Swinney was education secretary.

Ms Bradley said: “I wrote to John Swinney on the day he was sworn in as First Minister, signalling that while he might have been on the backbenches for the past year, we’ve stayed on the frontline of campaigning for quality education that’s rooted in social justice and we are keen to see how he’ll demonstrate a commitment to education.”

College sector dispute is becoming increasingly bitter

The EIS-FELA (Further Education Lecturers’ Association) represents college lecturers who have been involved in long-running industrial action over pay.

Ms Bradley was scathing in her speech over the failure to resolve the dispute, casting college employers as acting like “feudal lords with the power to starve their workers”, with the tacit backing of ministers, while alleging both would rather see the EIS disappear from the sector, “leaving the path clear for the privatisation agenda”. “We’re going nowhere,” she said.

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It all comes back to money

Most of the demands in the EIS election manifesto would require increased investment.

The manifesto calls for extra resources to tackle school violence, increased support for pupils with additional support needs, more money for early years, greater spending on school buildings, a significant increase in the number of permanent teachers, and a pay rise too.

Ms Bradley said: “We know that under-investment in education in the here and now is a massive error of political judgement. Politicians need to see as we do that the cost of a few million in savings in the short term will be massive in the lives of the young people whose futures hang by a thread – the young people for whom school and their teachers are a safety net.”

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