By James Halfpenny, of the EIS
The marked growth in the use of temporary contracts by many local authorities is leading to the casualisation of the teaching workforce and robbing schools and pupils of the vital stability that is needed to ensure a high-quality learning and teaching experience in all parts of our education system.
Absolutely central to this is the need to employ more teachers in our schools to support young people in education recovery. The Covid pandemic has had a profound impact on the educational experience of many young people across the country, with the most damaging negative impact often being experienced by those already facing significant disadvantage.
Poverty-related disadvantage has occurred during lockdown, alongside the impact on educational attainment generally and the potential damage done to children’s well-being and welfare. Tackling all of these aspects will be a labour-intensive process as children will need counselling, support and nurturing. To this end we will need more teachers, more specialists, and more support services.
It is noticeable, also, that children with additional support needs have been impacted significantly– 42% achieving Literacy levels against a national figure of 76% and in Numeracy 53% against a figure of 83%.
Given that more than 1 in 4 pupils in our mainstream schools have additional needs this is an area of concern, which the EIS believes the Scottish Government is failing to tackle with sufficient targeted investment.
Recent OECD research has shown that smaller class sizes where there are patterns of multiple deprivation or additional needs help individual pupil recovery but the Scottish Government continues to resist making any progress in this area.
The Government’s education recovery plan is far too timid in its ambition given the scale of the impact of Covid on the most disadvantaged young people. The simple fact is that pupil recovery will be delayed and diminished if much greater resource isn’t made available to schools.
To that end, teachers who are available should be signed up to help with those pupils from more vulnerable backgrounds, class size needs to be reduced to 20 pupils maximum, along with a reduction in maximum class contact time to 20 hours to match OECD norms – allowing teachers more effective preparation time and an end to zero-hours supply lists.
Some teachers have to take second or even third jobs to make ends meet, say LibDems
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie has called for the Scottish Government to conduct a national survey of teachers to assess how many of them are currently unemployed or underemployed.
Mr Rennie has consistently called for a teacher job guarantee to ensure that every qualified teacher has a job and a part to play in helping with the educational recovery.
Mr Rennie said: “Children and young people’s lives were turned upside down by the pandemic. Despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, their educations suffered.
“We must not let that become a lifelong blot on their educational record. But to help Scottish education bounceback we need to put great teachers at the heart of education.
“I have met with teachers employed on casual, short term and zero hours contracts who are desperate to play a part in that educational recovery.
“Sadly, the numbers of teachers employed in this way has mushroomed in recent years. Some teachers have to take second or even third jobs to make ends meet.
“The Government is failing those who dreamed of nurturing young minds. They can’t even say how many unemployed and underemployed teachers there are out there.
“The Government should undertake a national survey, encourage every qualified teacher to come forward and guarantee them a permanent job. This will cut class sizes and ensure every young person gets the best education.”