Scotland’s largest teaching union is calling for an “education-led recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic.
The EIS has launched a manifesto calling for “a significant increase” in the teaching workforce so that class sizes can be reduced “with an ultimate target of 20 maximum” and the time teachers spend in front of classes be cut to 20 hours per week.
Scottish teachers spend a maximum of 22.5 hours teaching each week, with figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showing Scottish teachers spend more time in front of classes than many of their peers in other countries.
The union also wants to see an end to “zero-hours supply lists”, which it says are leading to qualified teachers leaving the profession because they “struggle to get permanent posts in their chosen career”.
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According to the union, of the teachers who graduated last year, more than 500 are no longer registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).
The EIS – ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May – is calling on all political parties to commit in their manifestos to delivering the investment required to make education recovery possible.
The manifesto, entitled For an Education Led Recovery, outlines EIS policy in key areas including early years education, primary and secondary schools, additional support needs (ASN), instrumental music, the impact of poverty and tackling inequality.
In early years, it calls for “guaranteed minimum access to qualified teachers”; in secondary, it says the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and senior phase assessment should be reformed; and when it comes to additional support needs, it calls for more specialist staffing and “proper resourcing”.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Education has been at the centre of political discourse in Scotland for some time, with most political parties expressing commitment to improving the life chances of Scotland’s pupils and students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Unfortunately, unanimity has spread little beyond that broad objective and Scotland’s teachers and lecturers have felt that education has more often been a political football than the subject of a shared national ambition.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare some of the deep inequalities in our society, but also the absolutely essential role that schools and educational establishments play in the nurturing and development of our children; in supporting the wellbeing and resilience of young people and students; and in the provision of pathways for achievement and attainment for all.
“In calling for an education-led recovery from the impact of the pandemic, the EIS demands from all political parties commitments to concrete policies and the necessary investment which will restore and build upon the solid foundations of Scotland’s education system and support progress to a fairer, more equitable and more just Scotland.”
Mr Flanagan said more than one in 10 teachers are on temporary contracts or zero-hours supply staff lists.
Mr Flanagan said: “The challenge around education recovery is immense and if we are to meet the needs of young people, Scotland needs more teachers.
“This would help to reduce class sizes, ensuring that students receive tailored support that meets their needs; it would enable an increase in the specialist provision required for young people with additional support needs; it would support our pupils and students who have suffered a traumatic experience during the pandemic, with the impact often being felt most acutely by young people already facing disadvantage caused by poverty.”
The EIS is also calling for free instrumental music tuition for all school pupils who wish to learn an instrument and the universal provision of free school meals, including over holiday periods, for all nursery and school-aged children.