Fresh call for cuts to class sizes and contact time

Dramatic reductions in class sizes and contact time envisaged by 2030 in proposals tabled at EIS conference

Henry Hepburn

Calls to cut class sizes and teacher contact time in Scotland's schools made at the EIS teaching union conference

A move will be made this week to reduce class sizes in Scotland to 20 while also cutting teachers' class-contact time to 20 hours, as part of a nine-year "incremental" plan that would be fully realised in 2030.

The proposal is part of a motion going to the first annual general meeting of the EIS, Scotland's largest teaching union, since the Covid crisis began. The 2020 AGM was cancelled as a result of the pandemic and this year's three-day event will be held online, starting on Thursday.

A motion from the Edinburgh branch of the union proposes instructing the EIS' council to "seek agreement at the [Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers] for a nine-year plan for phased, incremental reductions to class sizes and class contact time with the goal of achieving the aims of the [EIS] 20:20 Campaign by August of 2030".

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The 20:20 campaign targets were one of the headlines of the last EIS AGM, held in Perth in 2019.

'Cut class sizes to a maximum of 20'

The Edinburgh motion also calls for a ballot of EIS members on "industrial action, up to and including strike action, if there is no agreement at the SNCT by the end of September of 2022 for such a plan".

Another motion, from the EIS local association in Glasgow, calls for "legislation to immediately move to cut class sizes in P1-3 to a maximum of 20 to support pupil health, wellbeing and recovery".

International data shows that class contact time in Scotland is far above the average for comparable countries.

In an update published in early 2020, shortly before the coronavirus reached Scotland, the EIS said: "The 20:20 campaign may seem ambitious, but so did a 10 per cent pay claim. The reality is that the 20:20 reductions in class size and class contact would deliver changes that would bring Scotland’s teachers to around the international norm in these areas.

"The 20:20 demands would bring tangible benefits for teachers, and also to pupils, especially when allied with other workload improvements such as collegiate working and distributive decision making. Without such concrete changes, teacher stress and potential burnout will only increase."

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said today: "We have a total of 44 motions to be debated at this year’s AGM, covering a wide range of education, equality, employment relations, salaries and organisational matters. The AGM will shape the priorities for the EIS, and for Scottish education, in the year ahead.

"As you would expect, the impact of Covid is the main theme that will run throughout this year’s AGM. Supporting education recovery must mean investing in education provision, including through employing more teachers in our schools. It also means providing enhanced and tailored support for the young people, particularly those living in poverty or who have additional support needs, who are more likely to have been further disadvantaged during lockdown. The recent concerns over the impact of changes to the qualifications system – including the severe additional workload pressures and stresses that have been placed on many students and teachers – is likely to be a hotly debated issue at AGM."

The AGM will feature keynote speeches by Mr Flanagan and EIS president Carole Thorpe. It will also hear from Kevin Courtney, co-general secretary of the NEU teaching union, who will speak about the challenges facing education in England.

On Friday morning, the guest speaker will be Shirley-Anne Somerville, the recently appointed cabinet secretary for education, who will deliver one of her first major speeches since being appointed. She will also take questions.

The entire AGM, taking place from 10 to 12 June, will be streamed live on the EIS Facebook page.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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