EIS members to take action over workload

Union members say implementation of CfE and bureaucracy are to blame

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Despite wide-ranging debates that covered everything from the supply teacher shortage to pensions, there was a clear thread that ran through this year's EIS AGM in Perth - that of workload.

Only weeks after an EIS survey of primary teachers showed that 90 per cent felt their workload had increased under Curriculum for Excellence, the union's members overwhelmingly carried a motion for a workload campaign, including possible strike action.

The implementation of CfE and the associated paperwork was predominantly to blame for the dramatic increase in workload, speakers at the conference said. "Curriculum for Excellence is being implemented on the good will of teachers," council member Celia Connolly said.

In primary schools, members had to "make up materials from scratch" and in secondary schools there was still a "lack of confidence (and) a clear lack of direction and leadership", Ms Connolly added. The timetable for the delivery of resources is not being met by Education Scotland and local authorities, she added.

And while there was some debate around what exactly a workload campaign should entail, there was no doubt among the audience that something had to be done - confirmed by roaring applause after every speaker and little, if any, discussion prior to voting. The mood among teachers was one of activism and a belief that something had to be done now. "It is time to take action," Ms Connolly said.

Aileen Barrie, also on the union council, said that she had never known a time like it in her teaching career. "I have never witnessed my colleagues so overworked and so stressed, and all compounded by a lack of support," she said.

The workload issue was made worse by excessive bureaucracy and a lack of appropriate continuing professional development and resources for CfE programmes, members were told. Ring-fenced funding should be made available to tackle this problem, teachers agreed.

Ways in which the implementation of CfE could affect workload in a less direct way were also on the agenda.

Graham Boyd, from the East Ayrshire branch, told of a biology teacher delivering physics in S3. He called on the union to ensure broad general education in S3 would be taught only by properly qualified teachers. Mr Boyd said that this teacher had to teach to a regimented script, lacked confidence in the use of the apparatus, and that specialist staff had to support her.

EIS members also voted to investigate and report on the discrepancies in the number of subject options available to students, which, according to Charlotte Ahmed from the Glasgow branch, was still a "complete mess". A motion to ballot members for industrial action to protect pensions was also carried.

Addressing the EIS conference cohort on Saturday, education secretary Michael Russell railed against the unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork being introduced in the name of CfE. The government would set up a working group to tackle teacher workload, he said. But as the conference proved, unless it delivers results, Mr Russell can expect plenty more criticism.

julia.belgutay@tess.co.uk.

Photo credit: Alamy

Original headline: EIS members to take action over rising workload

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