Hugh Reilly: Don’t be fooled, that isn’t cavalry you hear

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IMAGINE you are a US trooper at the Little Bighorn, surrounded by Sioux Indians who are threatening to give you the ultimate short back and sides.

As waves of warriors descend upon you, your Springfield rifle jams. Desperately, you point your index finger at the braves and pull an imaginary trigger while shouting “Pinyooow!’ This charade fails to fool the injuns. Suddenly, however, a bugle blasts in the distance and the sound of galloping horses has you whooping and hollering, holding your army cap aloft. Unfortunately, you are a dash disappointed to see Crazy Horse coming over the hill, blowing the bugle he stole from a Laramie ragman. Worse, he has brought a few hundred of his best friends with him. At this point, the phrase “there’s always somebodae worse aff than yersel” rings a tad hollow.

Embattled supply teachers whose pay has been scalped at the behest of Cosla savages must have felt like one of Custer’s soldiers when they heard Labour MSPs were riding to their rescue. “This unfair and unjust pay agreement needs to be scrapped now,” said Labour’s education spokesman, Hugh Henry. White man speak with forked tongue, I say. Labour beating the drum for temporary teachers is high-altitude hypocrisy. Despite the 2007 local government massacre of its councillors, the party still plays a significant role in Cosla. It has an absolute majority in three large councils, runs a minority administration in another and is part of a coalition in seven local authorities. Put bluntly, Labour councillors were prime movers of reducing the financial package to the most vulnerable members of the teaching profession. Further, in initial consultations with the Scottish government, Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council proposed teachers work one extra hour per week, which had it been accepted, would have cut teaching posts in the city.

I would suggest that Labour is endeavouring to distance itself from the supply teaching crisis because local government elections are but a few months away. The party’s school spokesman, Neil Findlay said: “I’m so surprised the education minister doesn’t mention the crisis in supply teaching when we have an education debate.” Happy to be helpful, here’s another wee surprise for you, Neil. Glasgow City Council could, if it so desired, take a unilateral decision to pay supply teachers an increased rate. The Labour-dominated local authority has previous form in taking a different path. For example, when many councils were attempting to reduce classes sizes – as per the SNP government’s wishes – Weegie burghers decided to use the extra cash to increase early intervention schemes. Recently, the city made the munificent gesture of paying the salary of a primary teacher who had resigned more than two years previously. (No doubt embarrassed by the charity of her previous employer, the schoolmistress kept schtum about the £86,636 overpayment.) Now that my deed of active citizenship has alerted him to the situation, I fully expect Mr Findlay to call on his councillor chums in the city chambers to properly reward temporary staff.

The EIS is another participant to the agreement which is guilty of displaying faux outrage at the plight of supply staff. The negotiating team and leadership stroked their chins and endorsed the notion that temporary teachers should bear the burden of slashing education costs, an abysmal stance that has, in part, led to the professional association losing members faster than the House of Lords branch of the Ed Miliband Fan Club.

Mike Russell’s hands are not clean either. A minister with a degree of foresight should have foreseen some difficulty in recruiting professional teachers willing to work for £70 per day. During the recent storms, one of my trees shed its roots and embedded itself in a neighbouring tree, lying like a drunken man against a lamppost. Although it would be only an afternoon’s work, the cheapest quote from a tree surgeon to remove the leaning tower of pine tree was £750. As a retiree on a gold-plated pension of £11k, kidnapping a pair of beavers from Loch Coille Bharr to do a foreigner crossed my mind. I cannot be alone in finding it bizarre that society values wannabe lumberjacks above those tasked to educate the next generation. If we are serious about our children receiving the best education the country can reasonably afford, those in positions of power must revisit the pithy remuneration on offer to supply staff. Otherwise, there will be nobody standing at the front of the class.