Teachers vote on exams boycott over spiralling workload

Scotland’s teachers are to vote on calls for boycott of the national exams system amid growing concerns over spiralling workloads.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said teachers were reluctant to take action. Picture: Greg Macvean

A series of motions at the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) annual meeting this weekend calls for industrial action, with particular concerns over the extra work related to marking of “unit assessments” of the new Nationals.

They include a call for a “boycott of co-operation” with exams body the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The signal that teachers are sending out is that enough is enough.”

Workloads and budget cuts will be two of the dominant issues at the AGM. A large number of motions for debate are related to these issues, including the need to tackle excessive workload through reducing bureaucracy and the impact of class sizes.

Teachers say they want to see “meaningful” steps to ease the workload associated with new SQA qualifications.

These include a call for a potential boycott of the unit assessments unless workload concerns are addressed. Changes imposed by government on the teachers’ pension scheme, which are seen as detrimental, will also be the subject of a number of key debates at the event in Perth.

Mr Flanagan said the EIS workload survey, published this week, showed the average teacher’s working week was 46.5 hours, despite the fact they are contracted to work for 35 hours.

He added: “These issues must be tackled to reduce the workload burden.

“Teachers are always extremely reluctant to take industrial action, so it is significant that there are a number of motions calling for some form of industrial action over workload to be debated at the AGM this year, including calls or a boycott of some of the internal assessments currently demanded by the SQA.

“The message to the Scottish Government, to local authorities and national education bodies could not be clearer – you must take action, now, to lighten the load on our schools and our teachers.”

The East Lothian branch has a motion calling for a campaign to reduce the workload and bureaucracy involved in “testing, retesting and marking” of internal SQA assessments.

And the East Ayrshire local association calls on the EIS to conduct a ballot for a “boycott of all SQA related work” unless this can be managed in the 35-hour working week.

The Highland and West Dunbartonshire local associations have a joint motion calling for a ballot among secondary school members on industrial action “amounting to a boycott of co-operation with SQA including the marking of unit assessments at National 5 and National 6 levels until such time as the SQA reduces the enormous burden and reforms the nature of internal assessments for all courses.”

Other concerns raised by teachers this weekend include the current allocation of working time in the contractual 35 hour working week, including calls for local and school-based agreements on working time.

The impact of reductions in teacher numbers and the shortage of supply teachers are other issues of concern which will be raised at the Perth event which gets under way tomorrow.

Other concerns include the workload implications of austerity and lack of resources, as well as the stress and ill-health impact of excessive workload.

A Scottish Government spokesman said work is already under way to address concerns over workload facing teachers.

“We are committed to making sure councils have the right number and highest quality of teachers which is why we have offered councils £51 million, including an additional £10m above last year’s settlements to support numbers,” he added.