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by Louise Wilson
05 June 2023
Teaching union chief: SNP education efforts ‘not finished’ eight years since Nicola Sturgeon pledge

Photo Credit: Andrew Perry

Teaching union chief: SNP education efforts ‘not finished’ eight years since Nicola Sturgeon pledge

The general secretary of Scotland’s largest teaching union has said the Scottish Government’s efforts to improve education remain unfinished eight years after Nicola Sturgeon pledged to make it a priority.

Speaking exclusively to Holyrood, Andrea Bradley said teachers were “drowning in paperwork” and progress on the manifesto commitment to reduce class contact time had been at “less than snail’s pace”.

Bradley became the first woman to lead the trade union in its 175-year history last year.

Since then, the union has managed to secure one of the best public sector pay deals, with most teachers to receive an increase of 14.6 per cent by next January.

The deal was struck in March this year after a series of national and rolling strikes.

But Bradley said this still represented “yet another real-terms pay cut” and she also raised concerns about teacher’s working conditions.

Asked about the Scottish Government’s efforts to improve education more broadly, she said the work was “not finished”.

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in 2015 that education was her priority. Sturgeon added: “Let me be clear – I want to be judged on this. If you are not, as first minister, prepared to put your neck on the line on the education of our young people then what are you prepared to.”

Asked what grade Bradley, a former high school teacher, would give Sturgeon, she said: “I don't think I would personalise it to Nicola Sturgeon individually, but to the SNP government, if I were a teacher marking that as a project, then I would say ‘this is not finished’. There is a lot more to be done here.”

She added there had been “a lot of strong rhetoric” but a “massive shortfall in terms of the resourcing input that is required”.

And on the education reforms currently being considered, including the scrapping of the SQA and the splitting up of Education Scotland, she said the union had had to “push” to be involved.

“To our mind, that's indicative of the culture we have to change. We have to have a new set of governance arrangements for the new agencies that wholly recognise the absolutely essential role of teacher voice in decision making. We are not going to get it right on curriculum, learning, teaching, assessment, qualifications, unless we have teacher voice at the heart of deliberations,” she added.

The Scottish Government pointed to higher investment per pupil in Scotland compared to elsewhere in the UK. It also said it was "committed" to recruiting more teachers.

A spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government recognises and appreciates the hard work of our teachers. Our determination to support them led to an historic pay deal which now means that Scottish classroom teachers, on the main-grade scale, are the best paid in the UK.

“This year, £4.85 billion has been allocated across the education and skills portfolio. Scottish education continues to perform strongly. The most recent figures show the biggest single-year decrease in the poverty-related gap in primary numeracy and literacy levels since records began. We are also seeing record proportions going on to positive destinations including work, training or further study."

Read the Holyrood's full interview with Andrea Bradley, EIS general secretary, here.

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