SSTA members vote for industrial action

teacher in classroom Image copyright Jetta Productions

Members of a Scottish teaching union have voted in favour of industrial action in a dispute over workloads.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) said a "very large" number of its members voted in favour of action short of a strike.

It welcomed recent moves by the Scottish government to reduce workloads but said it was unlikely to have an impact this session.

Last week the EIS union suspended a programme of industrial action.

The Education Secretary, John Swinney said there was "no justification whatsoever" for the action, given the significant steps the Scottish government had taken to reduce teacher workload.

He has urged SSTA members not to participate in industrial action, saying it is not in anyone's interest.

He added: "I have also taken swift action in response to feedback from teachers and others, to de-clutter the curriculum guidance and review the workload demands placed on teachers by local authorities.

"As these measures bed in, I ask teachers to continue to work with us to ensure that together we can create more time to teach our young people, and help contribute to closing the attainment gap."

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The SSTA's general secretary Seamus Searson said the union welcomed the move but it has "no option" but to move to industrial action.

A total of 40.8% of its members voted in the ballot and 91% voted in favour of taking industrial action.

Mr Searson said: "The ballot has shown the strength of feeling and determination of secondary school teachers to address the workload demands that distract teachers from focusing on teaching and learning.

"The SSTA has consistently argued for cutbacks in bureaucracy and the damage it does to our young people and teachers"

"The SSTA wishes to acknowledge and welcome the deputy first minister's determination to de-clutter the work of teachers and allow them to focus on teaching and learning.

"However, the SSTA's view is that teacher workload has and is unlikely to be significantly reduced in the current session, especially in the area of national qualifications, and therefore we have no option but to move into industrial action to protect its members."

Analysis from BBC Scotland's education correspondent Jamie McIvor

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Only last week the largest teachers' union, the EIS, suspended a partial work-to-rule over the workload - but now the SSTA is set to start industrial action.

Details of exactly what action the SSTA will take have still to be announced, but it will not include strikes.

The EIS ended its action after the government moved to scrap unit assessments in National 5 and Higher courses - these were marked by teachers so scrapping them should help reduce their workload.

The SSTA sees this as a step in the right direction but wants more done.

Although many of its members probably voted for action before the assessments were scrapped, the union makes the point that there are other workload worries too and that the changes will only start to take effect next year.

One issue is with the so-called Added Value Units which National 5 students in many areas routinely complete so they still receive a National 4 award if they fail their exam.

Many teachers believe these units are a waste of time for candidates and teachers alike, except where the candidate actually has a chance of failing.

Scrapping unit assessments completely was a big - and for some unexpected - move by the government. The question is whether any further significant moves will see off the threat of action by the SSTA.

Mr Searson said Mr Swinney was at the union's national council meeting on Saturday, where he asked for more time to make changes.

"Unfortunately, the proposed changes for National 5 do not take place until 2017-18 and with the lack of progress on National 4 the union had no option but to move to action to protect another cohort of young people and its members from excessive workload," Mr Searson added.

The union's president, Euan Duncan, said, "SSTA members care passionately about the young people they teach and getting the best qualifications.

"However, the pressure and stress suffered by both young people and teachers cannot be allowed to continue.

"We hope the deputy first minister can work with the SSTA to find a way forward and put measures in place to help the situation."

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