Unnecessary Cuts – Necessitates Unity

Yesterday, I successfully moved the following motion at SSTA Council:

“Council, believing that teachers’ pay and conditions of service are now clearly under unprecedented attack resolves to work collaboratively with other teaching and trade unions to form a united front to act collectively to resist actions detrimental to the education of young people in Scotland”

Here is what I actually said:


This motion has grown out of the anger that we all feel at the attacks upon our wages, our pensions, our conditions of service, and has grown also out of the need to collectively defend these very things.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented attack on public services, public servants and the public that they serve, with we teachers very much in the firing line.

For the UK government’s ‘We’re all in this together’ – read: “so long as I’m alright Jack.”

A new coalition, new politics but the same old story of the poorest paying the price of the folly of the rich.

Instead of standing up to the bankers, this coalition has stood up for them.

These cuts are not only damaging, they are unnecessary. Whilst our public services are bled try, the banks receive yet another transfusion.

According to UK Uncut Vodafone, HSBC, Barclays are just some of the companies “employ[ing] armies of lawyers and accountants to exploit legal loopholes to dodge billions in tax” amounting to some 25 thousand million pounds.

Whilst the probationer in my department wonders if she will even have a job next year, one man alone, Philip Green the boss of Topshop has managed to dodge close to £300 million pounds in tax.

£300 million.

Instead of closing off the prospects of our probationers they should be closing off the tax loopholes – each and every one of them.

What is sickening, is that whatever the Westminster-imposed cuts are they being jumped upon within Scotland by an unholy alliance of CoSLA and the Scottish government seemingly united though not necessarily competent in their desire to attack teachers.

We are as an association, correctly non-partisan but I have to say that I for one don’t see the benefit of a council tax freeze to a school office worker, a school janitor or a school teacher who has lost their job to bring that freeze about.

One thing is clear, the best way for secondary teachers to protect their conditions of service is to join the SSTA but we must show the leadership and the maturity to work with others to achieve our goals.

We are all in this together, we are all facing attack.

The fact that it possibly supply teachers, probationers, conservation and the Chartered Teacher scheme first does not mean the rest are immune.

It seems that the minister would have us believe that it’s the local councils that have him by the throat,whilst CoSLA complains of a domineering executive forcing its agenda on them.

But it doesn’t matter who is the monkey and who is the organ grinder or whatever the tune is that’s being played both government and CoSLA are waltzing along arm in arm.

This motion calls us on us to give a clear message to them both: you’re not on and we will work with others to protect and preserve the conditions of service that we earn through our hard work, that we earn through our dedication and our commitment to young people.

Last Autumn in common with many other public sector unions we marched to take action against cuts but in the period ahead we may have to do much more than march.

Last May I moved a Congress motion saying that, “whilst the general election campaign had just ended; the campaign to save Scottish education had just begun.”

That bit was easy to predict, but I don’t know what lies ahead.

Though, whatever attacks do lie ahead…locally or nationally they must be faced, fought and defeated by collective action.

This motion gives us a way forward to ensure that that collective action, that co-operation with others not only continues but also expands.

That action may not be easy to achieve but doing nothing nothing is no longer an option. 

Leadership and Management

Everything that I have ever learned about ‘what makes a good leader/manager’ is exactly the same as ‘what makes a good teacher’.  Too often, those teachers that are not in promoted posts tend not to think of themselves as either leaders or managers – any teacher has to lead and direct the learning and development of hundreds of young people. In doing so, they have to manage resources and people, set aims and policies – in fact ALL of the things that we expect leaders and managers to do.

For me in reality in Scottish education, the difference between ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ is that we pay managers but not leaders – and there seems to be no requirement on managers to lead effectively.

Teachers are too often denied the opportunity to innovate and I think that this has not been helped by managers who think that they are the be-all and end-all.

When a colleague comes to me with an idea I think that I’m fairly consistent in asking them to run with it,  evaluate it and learn from the experience. The worst thing that I could do is place in their way some of the barriers that I have too-often faced – neatly summed-up by Seth Godin:

That’s not the way we do things around here

Please don’t underestimate how powerful this sentence is.
When you say this to a colleague, a new hire, a student or a freelancer, you’ve established a powerful norm, one that they will be hesitant to challenge.
This might be exactly what you were hoping for, but if your goal is to encourage innovation, you blew it.

Put simply, how can we expect teachers to develop the four CfE capacities in our young people, if we do not develop these same capacities in our teachers?

The challenge is to see and open-up the potential in all of our human resources – teachers and pupils. For a lot of managers, this means having to face up to the fact that often, the best ideas come from someone else.