What's in store for the new government?

6th May 2011 at 01:00

As TESS went to press this week, one of the last election polls had predicted the SNP would have a "landmark" victory. That of course did not allow for voters getting cold feet as they approached the ballot box or voter apathy counting against the likeliest winners. What it did indicate was the probable colour of the new Scottish government.

Many teachers will welcome the outcome. Two out of five in our own election panel opted to vote SNP, and a third was possibly going to follow suit (p6). One welcomed Alex Salmond's support for free higher education; another was voting for Salmond in spite of Michael Russell's refusal as Education Secretary to put the brakes on Curriculum for Excellence; and the third was "edging towards the SNP" - again, in part, because of its higher education policy. Another panellist swung against the SNP when she read last week's TESS interview with Russell, bristling at his response to the treatment of supply teachers in the revised pay deal.

She is not alone, judging by this week's talk in the TESS online forums (p47). Plenty of teachers feel bitter and let down by the SNP and their own EIS union, for a deal struck in the last hours of the previous government - supply teachers above all, who feel they have struggled financially to cling onto a career they love, only to suffer further blows under an agreement that will see them paid less than their qualifications would merit. Add to them chartered teachers whose progression is frozen, probationers who will have to teach more hours and have less time for professional development, and those teachers who resent a two-year pay freeze in the face of rising living costs.

So the new government will have to deal with a disgruntled and demoralised workforce (and that's just the teachers) - demoralised not simply by the pay agreement, but also by the pounding it has taken in some of the recent submissions to the McCormac review of teacher employment.

Ministers will also have to make major decisions on the future of the local authorities, which they blame for cuts in teacher numbers and the failure to achieve smaller class sizes. But that is a challenge they may well relish if they have an increased mandate from the people, even as a minority government. They will also have to prove Scotland can afford free higher education.

So, what's to look forward to in the new dawn? One, the McCormac report in June, if the professor can restore a sense of self-worth in teachers and of fairness; two, local authority reorganisation if it is handled creatively and sensitively; and three, the prospect of a stronger government with the clout to implement more of the policies in its manifesto.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor, gillian.macdonald@tes.co.uk.

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