Boards have too often failed schools and consideration should be given to stripping them of their administrative powers, said a union boss today.
Seamus Searson will tell the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) convention that now is the time to examine the long-standing relationship between local authorities and education providers, including options for transferring their role to entities independent and non-political such as regional councils. .
He said the boards had put teachers at risk throughout the Covid pandemic and said his union had to fight ‘tooth and nail’ for the implementation of school safety measures.
Mr Searson, who is the general secretary of SSTA, added that controversies over substitute work and permanent teacher contracts illustrated failures that have cast doubt on the ability of authorities to run schools. He is now insisting that they be included in a major national review that will shape plans for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) replacement and the reform of the education Scotland standards body.
His criticisms were strongly rejected by the leaders of COSLA, which represents the councils. They said the comments amounted to “distortion” that would not be recognized by children, youth and families.
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But Mr Searson told the Herald: “The education review is underway – they are reviewing the curriculum, Education Scotland and its functions. They review the SQA and national qualifications. It is therefore a major review that is underway. But the only thing we lack in all of this is the role of local authorities in the management of education – so far they have suffocated teachers, increased their workload, put teachers at risk throughout. the pandemic, because we had to fight tooth and nail to get all kinds of improvements [and] mitigation measures in schools.
“Some authorities have been very good and others far from good. We had to fight them all the time to make sure the teachers were safe. The introduction of CO2 monitors in schools is delayed longer than it should [been]. Getting face covers for everyone at school, making sure we have hand sanitizers and whatever else we need in schools – they’ve all been choked or delayed.
“I would say that local authorities need to be involved in the review and a big question is: are they really good at managing education in schools? ”
Mr. Searson said one possible alternative would be a network of regional school boards of which the boards could sit as members. He added that it could help depoliticize education. “They have it in other jurisdictions – they have it in Northern Ireland, for example,” he said.
“Some people might say we’re going back to the old days of what we had before, [when we had] a number of areas of education. But I think we need to seriously ask ourselves the question: Did what we have done right now do the job?
“The situation we’ve had over the years is that when it comes to things like compensation, COSLA and boards find it very difficult to come to an agreement and make an offer because of political allegiance.
“Sometimes it is used to embarrass the government. And we have the council elections coming up next year and so the same applies. Some advice will want to embarrass the government and some will not. When I say advice, I mean [that] political parties [on councils] will.”
Mr Searson’s remarks come as a new row of teachers’ salaries emerges, with unions declaring a formal dispute over a proposed 1.22% increase. Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said it was “totally unacceptable that (…) Scottish local authorities and the Scottish government have failed to respond with a reasonable wage settlement”. Mr Searson said the dispute highlighted “the contempt local authorities have for some of their teachers.” He added: “Some [councils] are excellent, but there are others pinching around every corner.
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A COSLA spokesperson said: “The idea that boards and schools have failed during COVID is a poor characterization that will not be recognized by children, youth and their families. Facing ever-changing nature of the pandemic, boards, schools and all educational staff have gone above and beyond.
“Almost overnight new ways of delivering online education were developed, we ensured that free school meals continued to be delivered to those who were eligible and implemented a series of mitigations. in classrooms to protect staff and students, in accordance with Scottish Government and Public Health guidelines. always.”
The spokesperson added: ‘The Scottish Councils have used the money provided by the government to increase the number of teachers and support staff by over 1,600 new permanent and temporary jobs based on the local needs of our children and youth. Throughout the pandemic, they have prioritized the health, welfare and employment of staff in an extremely difficult financial climate, ensuring essential services remain in place.
“All the while, those on the supply lists have continued to be offered work and it is true that many councils struggle to secure staff to provide essential temporary coverage. Indeed, for some, anxieties remain high, which in a period of a global pandemic is perfectly understandable.
“Without a doubt, the Scottish Councils will continue to prioritize the recovery of children and young people and ensure that they get the most out of their education.”
On the issue of teacher pay, COSLA said it remained in “constructive negotiations” and talks would continue. A government spokesperson said: “We will continue to play our role, in a positive and constructive manner, in the wage negotiations.”