Education in Scotland: Secondary teachers to go on strike

High school staff in Dundee are to go on strike over council plans that would see subjects grouped in “faculties” and principal teachers removed.

The first day of action has been scheduled to take place on June 22 following completion of a statutory ballot.

Bosses at the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said members had voted strongly in favor of strikes, with 88 per cent backing the move. Turnout was 62%.

Under the faculty system – which is already in place across much of Scotland – subjects are brought together and run by a single manager or “curriculum leader”. Typical faculty groupings include Expressive Arts, Social Studies, and Languages.

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This contrasts with Dundee’s current arrangement in which specialist principal teachers are appointed for individual subjects.

City education bosses said the change was initially agreed by councilors three years ago but delayed due to the Covid pandemic. They stressed it would be a key part of efforts to boost attainment and outcomes.

However, the EIS said the ballot result was a clear indication of deep hostility to the proposals.

Local association secretary David Baxter said: “The council’s plans would remove the vital experience offered by subject specialist principal teachers from our schools, with long-term damaging consequences for education in Dundee and for young people in our schools.

“Teachers do not take strike action lightly, and it is now time for the Dundee Council to heed this clear warning and to halt their plans before it is too late.”

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His remarks were echoed by Larry Flanagan, EIS Secretary General, who said: “The imposition of this structure belies any commitment to empowered schools on the part of the Dundee Council and fails to factor in lead teacher roles which have been developed since these structures were first reviewed.

“At a time when the focus should be on supporting education recovery for young people, Dundee Council is proposing changes that will heap additional workload onto already over-burdened class teachers and remove vital expertise from secondary subject departments.

“Teachers in Dundee have voted, strongly, to fight these changes and they will have the full support of the EIS national body in their battle to oppose faculties and to protect the best possible education provision for young people in all Dundee secondary schools.”

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A city council spokesman said: “The change from the current system of a principal teacher for each subject area was initially agreed by councillors three years ago. All but two of Scotland’s 32 local authorities already have a faculty structure in place, and aside from Dundee, the other local authority without faculties across its schools has individual schools with faculties in support of head teacher empowerment.

Although a decision was taken to move to faculties in all secondary schools it was agreed that head teachers – in consultation with their teachers and in partnership with senior officers – would decide on a faculty structure which best supports their school’s curriculum, leadership, and management requirements working within delegated staffing budgets.

“It is now important to move forward with plans to support educational recovery and increase progress in improving outcomes, which include implementing our head teachers’ faculty structures, which will not mean any reduction in FTE teacher (full time equivalent) in any school.

“Additional funding is also being used to enhance both the core and additional support needs (ASN) teaching staff formula leading to an increase in teacher FTE across our secondary schools. Preparations are now underway to support each secondary school to move to their new faculty structure on a phased basis from August 2022.

“Officers have met regularly over the past three years with local trade union representatives to discuss, and consult on, the implementation of faculty structures in secondary schools. There have been ongoing changes to proposals and structures because of feedback from trade unions during these planned meetings. Updated proposals were always shared with trade unions. ”

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