Teacher Working Conditions are Student Learning Conditions

Address to SSTA Congress in moving the following Motion:

“The SSTA is committed to the highest possible quality of education for our young people. This Association believes that the way to achieve this aim is to invest in the teaching profession and its development not through the erosion of teachers’ conditions of service, the casualisation of the teacher workforce, or the devolving of further staffing matters to headteachers.

Congress totally rejects any proposals to save money by means of changes to teachers’ conditions of service believing that these will be detrimental to the education of young people.”

Congress we meet at a time when Scottish education stands at a crossroads.
On the one hand a route to improvement that invests in teachers and their development and thus invests in the education of our young people.
On the other – a race to so-called efficiency, pre-occupied by saving money.
When we hear of ‘improvement’ in education – all too-often it’s based upon every dodgy dossier and flawed analysis that can be found. So what’s the alternative.
In 2002 in North Carolina the then Governor Mike Easley started the Teacher Working Conditions Initiative – a systematic study of teacher working conditions through asking the people that matter – teachers. 
The survey itself covers issues such as time to work with colleagues in improving learning and teaching, the degree to which teachers feel empowered, the quality of professional development and of course, the efficacy of school leadership.
As Governor Easley said:
“Armed with this data, North Carolina will better meet the needs of teachers and in turn, our students, because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.”
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
Research based-upon the survey concluded:
‘To do their best work with students, teachers need supportive working conditions that provide the best opportunities to be effective. Creating positive work environments for teachers in every school…is an essential element to creating the learning environments that will maximize student success.”
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
That truism was stated in SSTA HQ recently, by non-other than Graham Donaldson.
Indeed, in his report Teaching Scotland’s Future, recommendation number 1 is:
Education policy in Scotland should give the highest priority to further strengthening the quality of its teachers and of its educational leadership.
The report goes on to propose a whole series of improvements to initial teacher education, as well as support for high quality CPD – career-long in order that the profession meets the challenges that lie ahead.
The report was welcomed, endorsed and accepted almost in its entirety by the Scottish Government –
Congress, accepting the report is one thing, implementing it is quite another – as this is the same Scottish Government that has put cuts in teacher’s conditions at the forefront of education policy.
Donaldson gives us hope – CoSLA and the government make us depair.
I mean, why have the best training in the world if it’s wasted as we move from pillar to post covering classes for absent colleagues because the two-tier workforce has left for better paid alternatives?
Why develop the capacity of our staff if, instead of spending time planning better outcomes for pupils, time is spent covering classes brought about by a failure to fill a vacancy?
Why invest in masters level training to have a teacher waste time inputting data into e-assessments systems, or tracking systems that measure nothing other than which staff have inputted which data?
With these cuts the price that will be paid will be the collapse of teacher morale and with it, the quality of education for our young people…
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
Many councils are now stripping out functions previously provided centrally, and replacing them with outsourcing or simply putting them at the door of schools.
We’re still waiting on Annex E of the McCrone agreement 10 years on, and yet, councils want to go full steam ahead putting more pressure on existing or less admin staff with the inevitable result that teachers will spend more time not less on admin.
Another mantra is the idea of devolving everything but the kitchen sink to schools and headteachers.
Now, I thought that HTs were like us, worried about information and initiative overload – are we going to add further to the demands upon them? A HT I know, spent an entire Saturday afternoon writing reports on PSA staff as part of a local authority review on their posts. Is this the best use of a HT? I shudder to think what the impact on them – or us would be of devolving further staffing matters.
But just as HTs might fear being devolved an ever-increasing bureaucracy as they lack the skills to cope – far less prosper. We fear HTs having greater powers – as they lack the skills to cope, far less prosper.
Let there be no doubt, the desire to devolve may, despite its best intention end up having little to do with improving the educational outcomes for schools or the pupils they serve. It may even be used to attack collective bargaining.
For councils, it’s efficiency: making more out of staff for less. Or simply, to have less staff.
For us, we know in these cuts to conservation, cuts to maternity leave and the creation of a two-tier supply system, that if you tolerate this, your conditions will be next.
We know that what affects some staff ends up affecting us all – but in our rejection of the CoSLA proposals we have a clear understanding that each cut, each erosion of our conditions has a damaging impact on the education of our pupils.
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
In recent times, the benefits to the profession brought about by McCrone have been called into question, and some seem to think that the professional freedom we enjoy is somehow unprofessional – because it cannot be monitored.
The TESS recently reported that in their submission to McCormac, SLS and AHDS: “wants to see the removal of teachers’ right to spend non class-contact time at a time and place of their choosing…”
“it also wants reduced class contact time to be quality assured to demonstrate its impact.”
Quality Assured to demonstrate its impact?
How about quality assuring the cuts to our conditions?
How about quality assuring the theft of our pensions?
How about quality assuring the impact of violence or abuse at work – when the school leadership turns a blind-eye?
How about quality assuring the creation of a two-tier workforce?
Or, how about quality assuring the impact on a school, its staff and its pupils of a hapless headteacher? SQ-Hed up to the eyeballs yet without the basics in collegiality or common sense.
The changes we see coming are but the thin-end of the wedge.
The management goal is clear:
we cut, you complain,
we fail, you get the blame.
Be an empowered professional – where you are free to do as we tell you.
Congress another way is possible. Another way is essential. There is an alternative. It is to invest in teachers and their conditions and this association will fight for that alternative:
Because teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.
Please support the motion.

2 thoughts on “Teacher Working Conditions are Student Learning Conditions

  1. Pingback: Teacher Wellbeing | robfmac

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