Some teachers could end up earning less than the minimum wage for the extra work they are being forced to take on following the cancellation of this summer's exams.
The revelation – published on The Ferret investigative news website – comes in the wake of the Scottish government's decision to give teachers and lecturers a one-off payment of £400 following the cancellation of the exams due to Covid-19. The fee is a recognition of the “additional workload related to the alternative certification model”, which involves assessments being set, marked and moderated by teachers, rather than the SQA.
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It is understood this would represent around 28 hours of extra work. But some teachers say they will need to work many more hours than that, meaning some could actually be paid less than the minimum wage – something that is acknowledged in a Scottish government document.
The February document identified potential concerns around the level of payment being offered, stating: “£400, and less after tax and pension contributions, will reflect less than minimal wage for the workload of some teachers and lecturers.”
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The document adds that the payment is being made in addition to two in-service days, which will be “paid at normal contract rate”, but does not dispute the payment itself falls short of minimum wage for some staff.
Officials had originally considered a payment of £100, £200 or £500 for teachers, outlining how many hours of work each would represent – as well as the overall cost – in a briefing to education secretary John Swinney in December.
Opposition politicians say teachers are being forced to “bail out the qualification system” and are demanding that the government pay “at least the Real Living Wage”. The Scottish government said in response that the level of payment was agreed in informal discussions with key stakeholders.
The EIS teaching union said it would expect “in-school time to facilitate a significant element of the workload” but added “there is undoubtedly additional pressure on teachers which fully justifies the payment”.
A spokesperson for Mr Swinney said: “Various levels of payment were examined, as were different models of payment.
“It was generally felt impractical to ask teachers to laboriously record their individual time spent on the Alternative Certification Model as this would simply add to the workload burden. Instead, in discussions with stakeholders, including teacher professional associations, it was felt that a flat rate approach was more appropriate.
“The precise level of payment was agreed in informal discussions with key stakeholders.”
Tes Scotland revealed earlier this year that the cancellation of the exams in 2020 saved almost £20 million.