Call to ditch head teacher reforms

Image caption Unions are concerned the reforms will dramatically increase the pressures on head teachers

Controversial plans to give head teachers more power should be ditched by the Scottish government, a union leader has said.

Seamus Searson used his speech to the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) congress to outline his opposition to the proposals.

Mr Searson told delegates that school heads were already struggling to cope with the demands placed on them.

And he claimed there was no widespread public support for the reforms.

The Education Bill would see sweeping reforms to the Scottish school system, including the introduction of a new Headteachers' Charter, giving heads more power over the curriculum, recruitment and budgets.

'Struggling to cope'

However the move has been strongly opposed by teaching unions.

Mr Searson told the conference: "The creation of a Headteachers' Charter is unwanted by many head teachers as they are already struggling to cope with all the demands placed upon them.

"There is no public consensus for this so don't proceed."

He also criticised plans to disband the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS) and transfer its functions to a new Education Workforce Council - a move described by the GTCS as having "no evidence-based rationale".

He added: "The priority must be to make changes that are going to help the teacher in the classroom today.

"If the proposed Education Bill is not going to help teachers in the classroom today then don't do it.

"It does not address the issues that are important to teachers today - pay, workload and pupil behaviour."

The SSTA says teachers' pay has fallen by almost 19% in the past decade when inflation and increased national insurance and pension contributions are taken into account.

'Administrative nonsense'

Meanwhile, the union says workload has increased and called for a national qualifications system "without the workload heavy, bureaucratic and administrative nonsense".

Mr Searson said such issues had resulted in teachers quitting the profession, and difficulty in filling posts.

"Teaching is not attractive when we have low pay, spiralling workload demands and when schools are unable to meet the needs of more demanding and challenging pupils," he added.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: "Our education reforms are focused on giving schools and head teachers more power and money to raise standards and close the attainment gap.

"They are based on international evidence of how high-performing education systems work - delivering extra help for teachers in the classroom, more professional development and a stronger voice for parents and pupils.

"The majority of respondents to the consultation support the principles behind our education reforms and, as the International Council of Education Advisers said last month, the direction of travel in Scottish education is impressive."

He added that the government was giving "careful consideration to the feedback on the Education (Scotland) Bill and will set out our next steps in due course."

Scottish Labour's education spokesman, Iain Gray, said: "The SNP claims that education is their top priority - but having slashed funding for years and now forcing through reforms to centralise schools in face of opposition from teachers and unions that simply is not a credible claim."

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