THE outgoing president of the the country’s largest teaching union has warned that the quality of education in Scotland’s schools is suffering as a result of falling teacher numbers and other cuts.
Tommy Castles used his last keynote address at the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) AGM to warn about excessive bureaucracy, growing teacher workload and the risk of increasing political interference following the recent high-profile spat over testing.
On Curriculum for Excellence, I’ll quote Sinatra: ‘Flying high in April shot down in May’Tommy Castles
He also decried the rise of political interference in education and the Curriculum for Excellence.
Addressing teachers and lecturers from across Scotland at Perth Concert Hall yesterday, he claimed that the strain on the education system, pupils and teachers is increasing.
He told delegates: “On Curriculum for Excellence, I’ll quote Sinatra: ‘Flying high in April shot down in May.’
“We spend up to ten years implementing CfE and then after a half-hour speech made by a politician to a group of academics it is open season on us and the CfE.”
Mr Castles also spoke about the recent party political fall-outs which have arisen over testing following a reported drop in reading and writing skills in the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN) last month.
He said: “Where does this assumption come from that seemingly all assessment stopped on day one of CfE? Schools continue to assess and in part do this by testing.
“Proper assessment should be relevant, manageable and inform the learning process. ”
Mr Castles also used his platform to say that the primary curriculum should be “decluttered” and that teachers’ workloads needed to be addressed.
“The Curriculum for Excellence itself is still one of our main drivers of workload,” he said.
“It should have brought about a de-cluttering of the primary curriculum and it has not. If you want to see the deep learning the CfE promised then declutter the curriculum. If you want more time spent on ‘the basics’, declutter the curriculum. In secondary schools, the main workload driver is the National Qualifications.”
He added: “Most importantly in tackling workload we have to ensure our members themselves develop the confidence to challenge the bureaucracy they face and to negotiate time to teach. Our members need to develop a confidence and a willingness to challenge bureaucracy.”
Mr Castles also used his address to tackle the issue of child poverty and how eradication should be a “prime objective”.
Education secretary Angela Constance said last month that poverty “should not be used as an excuse for failure”.
In response to Mr Castles’ address, Ms Constance, said: “The EIS is right to highlight that inequity in education remains a major challenge. I share outgoing president Tommy Castles’ concern about the impact of austerity measures on efforts to close the attainment gap for children from our most deprived communities.
“We are all swimming against an unforgiving tide of funding cuts so it is important we work together on this common goal.”