Curriculum for Excellence and the recent changes to secondary school management in Edinburgh dominated the EIS local elections hustings last night, with teachers voicing unhappiness at how both processes have been managed.
SNP Education Secretary, Mike Russell’s announcement on CfE earlier in the day had clearly touched a raw nerve with teachers, who lambasted him for being out of touch with reality. A recent study has shown that only 3% of teachers say that they are ‘fully confident’ about the introduction of the new qualifications, and that lack of faith in the new system, and our schools readiness for it, was laid out to the panel.
There clearly is support for the principles behind of CfE, and the vast majority of teachers want it to work; yet the reality on the ground is that many feel unsupported. And while Mr Russell’s positivity in the face of adversity is commendable, the endless pep talks from the Minister are unlikely to change this situation. Teachers want action, and while the £3.5million promised by Mr Russell to allow for further training is welcome, questions do have to be asked about the management of this whole process. Many teachers feel badly let down!
There was a similar tone to the discussion on Secondary School Management changes, which were recently brought forward by the SNP/Lib Dem Council in Edinburgh. The changes sought to end the post of Principle Teacher in Edinburgh’s Secondary Schools and replace them with a Curricular Leader working across a number of subjects. The changes were fiercely opposed by many teachers, especially when details emerged of subjects as diverse as English and modern languages were proposed to be led jointly, with teachers who used to lead their own subject now finding themselves leading at least one if not two sets of staff in subjects which they are not familiar and are not qualified to teach.
The moves were opposed not only by Labour but, in a historic joint opposition budget, Labour, the Greens and the Conservatives all sought to fight the proposal as we felt there could be a significant impact on learning in our schools. Various Education Committee reports failed to convince that either the financial savings were achievable or, critically, that there would be any educational benefit. Parents and teachers repeatedly told the Committee that the scale, scope and speed of the changes could effect the introduction of CfE. EIS members also pointed out during the Committee discussions that the SNP/Lib Dem Council was putting cost-cutting ahead of quality education provision for pupils, a point that was reiterated last night!
In our manifesto Edinburgh Labour have stated:
“We want the Curriculum for Excellence to be introduced into schools as smoothly as possible. We’ll ensure our teachers are given the training and support to do so. And we’ll see that the management structures within our schools support the new curriculum.”That’s because unlike the SNP and Lib Dems we recognise that the management structure is critical to the smooth introduction and development of the new curriculum. A future Labour-led administration will listen to teachers and senior staff; indeed our Co-op Council plans will ensure that that staff are actively engaged in service change. And if resources are needed we’ll fight for them, always recognising that education is fundamental to our success as a city.
There were questions too on nursery education, the ubiquitous mention of the trams (with the SNP panellist, a late stand in for Cllr Cardownie, stating the SNP didn’t support them, apart from the times they voted for them!). There was a real sense of frustration about the lack of responsiveness currently embodied within the Council, and a genuine appreciation for Labour’s co-op ideas to counter this.
All in all it was a really usefully, if not packed, event where the concerns of teachers were clearly laid out.