Scottish teachers demand full 10% pay rise

Banner of the EIS Scottish teachers’ union on a TUC demonstration against Tory government austerity

SCOTTISH teachers in the EIS union rejected a pay offer of 9%, demanding the full 10% pay rise that they are calling for.

Teachers in the union have  voted to reject the latest pay offer by 57% to 43%.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) will now move to ballot on strike action.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) union earlier voted to accept the pay deal.

The Scottish government said it was the ‘best pay deal for any public sector worker in the UK,’ offering a 9% rise by April and a further 3% next year.

EIS aims to hold a strike ballot which would begin two weeks on Monday unless an improved pay offer is tabled.

This could lead to industrial action by mid to late April.

Unions have been pressing for a 10% rise, arguing that the real value of teachers’ pay has fallen by over a fifth over the past decade.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said members had voted ‘by a very clear majority’ to reject the deal.

He added: ‘The EIS remains open to further negotiations within the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers but failing an improved offer, we will be initiating the process towards strike action.’

  • The Department for Education is to lift its academy order against William Torbitt Primary School in Redbridge.

An academy order forces a council-run state school to become a privately run academy, so the fact the order has been revoked represents a victory to all those campaigning against forced academisation.

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘We are pleased that the Secretary of State has chosen to revoke the academy order, the only logical decision under the circumstances.

‘This is not just a victory for common sense, it is also a victory for the parents and staff who campaigned and put pressure on the government to ensure that their school could continue to flourish with its current leadership and within the local family of schools.

‘Less than a year ago William Torbitt received an “inadequate” judgement from Ofsted but has now achieved “good” in its most recent inspection.

‘This is a testament to the talent and hard work of its staff and proof that schools which remain within the local authority family can overcome difficulties and continue on their upward trajectories.

‘This also fundamentally calls into question the government’s insistence on immediately academising schools which are judged by Ofsted to be “inadequate”.

‘A forced move to academy status under a sponsor imposed by ministers would have been a total disaster in this case that would have undermined the good work being done by the school as well as alienating parents and the wider community.

‘Sadly, this is what has happened and continues to happen with many schools which are forced to academise once they receive an Ofsted grade of inadequate. Such an approach is not only wrong in principle, it’s counterproductive; creating further disruption and uncertainty for staff, pupils and parents.

‘The government now has to rethink its whole approach and stop forcing schools into academy status against the wishes of their local communities. Schools should be allowed to remain within their local authority where they can benefit from the local expertise and knowledge that will support genuine school improvement.’

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, has written on two occasions to Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, about the plight of William Torbitt Primary School.

The most recent was on 7 February 2019:

‘Dear Damian,

‘William Torbitt Primary School, London Borough of Redbridge

‘I write further to my letter of 25 January regarding the above school.

‘I was delighted to hear from my members that, following its reinspection last month, the school has been rated “good” and is now out of special measures.

‘I am sure that you would want to join me in congratulating the staff, senior leadership team and local authority for their hard work in bringing about this impressive turnaround for the school.

‘NEU members continue to feel deeply unsettled however by the shadow of forced academisation hanging over them.  As you will be aware, the school is due to become a sponsored academy on 1 April.  Such a move is clearly unnecessary and could seriously undermine the progress that that has been made.

‘In light of the new circumstances, I urge you to use the powers at your disposal to withdraw the academy order and enable the school to continue the progress it is making with the support of the local authority.

‘I look forward to hearing from you.’

Meanwhile, Oxfordshire schools are being forced to become academies after being starved of funds to the point where they say they cannot even afford pens and paper!

Cash-strapped schools are being lured into a ‘corrupt’ system as they struggle to afford basics like pens and paper, it has been claimed.

The warning comes after one school wrote to parents asking for help to buy basics, such as paper and glue.

Campaigners have criticised the rapidly rising number of academies in Oxfordshire, run by multi-academy trusts rather than the county council, and said many are being misled into converting under the illusion of improving finances.

Oxfordshire’s joint branch secretary of the National Education Union, Sarah Carter, said: ‘Oxfordshire seems to suffer from schools jumping (into the academy system) way before they have to, because they think it will save money and help their budgets.

‘My school frequently ran out of board pens, writing materials, paper and exercise books. It decided it didn’t have enough money and joined a multi-academy trust.

‘Once you become an academy, the economies of scale and the money you think you’re going to save disappear.’

English teacher Ms Carter, who is on secondment from St Birinus School in Didcot, was speaking at a meeting at Oxford Town Hall last Tuesday called The Crisis in Education.

An audience member echoed her concerns, adding: ‘Primary schools are jumping before they need to leap and falling for the financial “carrot” – it’s a mirage.’

In 2016 the Government said all schools must become academies, but conversion is now only forced when schools are rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.

All of the Oxfordshire’s mainstream secondary schools are now academies except Carterton Community College and primaries are catching up – 138 are still run by the council, but 98 have converted, with more in the process of doing so.

Ms Carter said academies were becoming ‘exam factories’ and trusts are constantly cost-cutting, dropping subjects and restructuring staff.

She added: ‘The object is to get more money by getting good results, because every child is worth money.

‘It’s time we tackle the corruption that lies at the core of the academisation programme – the privatisation of state education is not the reason I became a teacher.’

Peter Cann, a concerned Oxford grandparent who organised the meeting, added: ‘Oxford’s schools are having to cut funding for basics such as books and materials.

‘On top of this, privatisation in the form of academies is eating away at the state education sector.’

In a newsletter last week, New Hinksey CE Primary School in Oxford invited parents to donate glue sticks, tissues, photocopying paper and card for craft.

The council-run school started to collect donations last year after parents proactively asked how they could help.

Headteacher Charlotte Haynes said: ‘We feel strongly that parents should not have to financially support a maintained school, nor do we want to make parents feel uncomfortable by being asked for money, which is asked for in some schools.

‘We regularly give ideas for items that any parent or grandparent that so wishes can pick up easily and drop off to school to keep our stocks replenished.’

She stressed that families are not ‘obliged’ to donate but that the community had been ‘amazingly supportive.’

However, Mrs Haynes said funding issues will not be solved by small requests for resources, adding:

‘The overall picture is not sustainable in the long or even medium term – schools are being asked to do more with less resources.

‘All schools have spent the last few years trying to make savings and pare down without impacting the quality of learning for our precious young people, who are growing up in challenging times.’

Tory Education Minister Damian Hinds’ vision of more schools becoming academies is being threatened by a ‘catastrophic’ fall in the number of applications to become sponsors.

Last month, the education secretary called for more schools to become academies, lobbied faith leaders to encourage more academy conversions and asked more groups to set up free schools.

However, an investigation has found that the number of applications to sponsor academies fell by 40 per cent over the past two academic years.

And the number of applications approved fell by more than 50 per cent – from 115 to 56 – although 20 of the 2017-18 applications were recorded as still being under assessment.

Data obtained using freedom of information legislation also found:

  • No sponsor applications from the business or charity sector in the past two years had been approved.
  • Almost a quarter of applications over the two years were rejected (7 per cent) or withdrawn (17 per cent). A further 10 per cent were described as being still under assessment.
  • A growing proportion of applications to become sponsors are coming from existing academies – rising from 63 per cent in 2016-17 to 78 per cent in 2017-18.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said that the lack of sponsors was ‘one of the biggest threats to the academy programme’.

She said: ‘It has been clear for years now that the DfE’s drive to academise schools has been constrained because there have not been enough sponsors coming forward, and a 40 per cent drop is catastrophic for the DfE.

‘Because there has been such a string of high-profile academy-sponsor failures, the DfE has had to raise the bar, and that raising of the bar acts to cut off the supply of sponsors at a time when the DfE wants more of them and the secretary of state is making these grand pronouncements.’