Short-term supply pay is poised to return to the negotiating table.
The council of the EIS union has backed plans to reopen discussions at the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers on what has proved to be the most contentious element of last year's national agreement - a cut by almost half to the previous rate of pay for teachers doing supply cover for five days or less.
The issue is now in the hands of the union's salaries committee - but its convener, Dougie Mackie, wants to gather firm evidence of supply shortages being caused by the pay cut before he takes the next step.
Education secretary Michael Russell has also called for further information on what is happening in schools, and has indicated that he is ready to revisit the issue at the SNCT.
Larry Flanagan, the EIS's incoming general secretary, told TESS this week: "If there is a shortage of supply teachers, that is a new factor and an unintended consequence that allows it to be revisited. Hopefully we can make some progress on the payment side."
Fears have been expressed that if Cosla, on the employers' side of the negotiations, gives way on this, it will demand funding cuts elsewhere or further pay freezes to compensate.
But Mr Flanagan said he wanted to find out from Cosla whether the supply pay cut had actually generated the savings it had forecast last year.
Mr Flanagan wants more hard evidence on a number of issues, including:
- Whether the pay cut is a particular disincentive for retired teachers, often seen as the backbone of the supply network because of their experience;
- If there is, as suggested, also a shortage in long-term supply teachers that cannot be attributed to the cut to short-term supply pay - and therefore begs the question what has happened to the unemployed teachers of two or three years ago. He wants better tracking of teachers once they leave training and probation;
- And whether the refusal by some local authorities to re-employ teachers who have taken early retirement packages has backfired on them.
THE SCRAMBLE FOR MORE STAFF
A survey by the Scottish Labour Party of all 32 local authorities suggests the majority are struggling to find supply teachers to cover classes. Its findings, in response to a Freedom of Information request, included:
- 84 per cent of local authorities experienced problems in fulfilling requests for short-term cover in 2011-12;
- 52 per cent also experienced problems in finding long-term supply;
- Edinburgh City Council had the greatest difficulty in finding long-term supply - 25 per cent of requests were unfulfilled;
- West Lothian Council had the greatest problems in finding short-term cover - 69 per cent of requests unfulfilled;
- 10 of the 20 councils which held accurate figures on the number of teachers on their supply lists recorded a drop in the number available and on the actual list;
- Aberdeenshire recorded the biggest drop in the number of teachers on a supply list - 275 teachers in one year.