EIS backs potential teacher strike ballot

teacher in classroom Image copyright Jetta Productions
Image caption The EIS ballot on industrial action short of a strike will close on Thursday of next week

The possibility of a teachers' strike has come a step closer after delegates at the EIS conference backed a motion calling for a ballot if their workload is not cut.

The union is currently holding a ballot on action short of a strike which is due to close next Thursday.

It would be up to the union's ruling council to decide when to hold any subsequent strike ballot.

But a strike ballot is unlikely to be held before the autumn.

Education Secretary John Swinney will address the conference on Saturday. The EIS is Scotland's largest teaching union.

The dispute between the EIS, Scottish government and Scottish Qualifications Authority centres on claims of excessive workloads for secondary teachers caused by the new National Qualifications.

The EIS has argued that the timeline around the introduction of the new qualifications has been rushed, giving schools insufficient time to absorb and plan for the changes.

Its ballot of secondary teachers on action short of a strike is due to close next Thursday.

It could lead to teachers "working to contract" by boycotting any additional work and assessment related to the new qualifications, which have been introduced under the Curriculum for Excellence.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Education Secretary John Swinney will address the conference on Saturday

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan earlier urged delegates at the conference to "send a strong message" to the Scottish government and the SQA to return an "overwhelming 'Yes' vote" in the ballot.

Mr Flanagan also said Mr Swinney had made clear that he was in "listening mode" and had "made clear his intent" to address the issues.

But he said more action was needed, and stressed that the EIS was "committed to the ballot process".

Asked about the ballot when it opened last month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "We will continue to work with teachers to make sure we are providing the best education for our young people in our schools but also that we are supporting teachers to do that.

"I think we've demonstrated in our time in government that we work with our teaching profession to support them and we will continue to do that."

'Impact of poverty'

Ms Sturgeon confirmed in January that local authorities will be required to use new standardised assessments, in reading, writing and numeracy, in P1, P4, P7 and S3.

The tests are a central part of the National Improvement Framework, which the Scottish government claimed would help narrow the attainment gap between the least and most deprived children - or as Mr Flanagan put it, the "impact of poverty of educational achievement".

Mr Flanagan told delegates the standardised assessments for younger students had to support learning and teaching, and not be used to promote target setting and league tables.

He said: "It could be potentially positive if it leads to increased investment; or potentially negative if it narrows the focus to an obsession with targets.

"We have been there before - we are not going back again. Data rich education systems are fine; data driven systems are not."

Mr Flanagan also launched a staunch defence of the Scottish comprehensive education system, and warned against following "UK Tory policy" on education, which he argued was "anathema to the type of comprehensive, public sector, societal good approach we have embraced in Scotland."

And he warned Mr Swinney against structural change after an SNP manifesto reference to educational regionalisation.

Mr Flanagan said: "Absolutely the last thing Scottish education needs at the moment is a structural reorganisation that would simply be a huge distraction and, frankly, a waste of resources."