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Teacher strike looms as union agrees ballot

TEACHERS have threatened strike action next year over pay, pensions and workload.

School staff got a 1 per cent rise in 2014 and 1 per cent backdated to the previous year along with other public-sector workers.

But the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) - the country's largest teaching union - said the increases meant overall salary levels were still deteriorating.

Delegates at the union's annual general meeting in Perth also heard teachers were struggling with the roll-out of new qualifications, with stress levels rising.

There is also anger over proposals to make teachers work until they are 68 before they get pensions.

As a result, motions to the AGM calling for ballots on strike action to reduce workload, improve pay and amend pensions changes were backed unanimously.

Delegates heard young teachers on lower salaries were "moonlighting" to make ends meet.

Probationers currently get £22,000 a year while those in their first year as a fully qualified teacher are paid £26,000. The maximum salary for a classroom teacher is almost £35,000. Charles McKinnon, from the EIS's Glasgow local association, said: "We have been told pay levels are at an acceptable level, but when you have young teachers working as bar staff and taxi drivers that is clearly not the case.

"We are paying for an economic crisis that was not of our own making and we have got to be determined to … take action."

Hugh Donnelly, secretary of the Glasgow local association, added: "Pay matters for the status of our profession and we have to believe we are worth it and take significant action to get it. There is always money for bankers' bonuses … we want a share of that pie."

Teachers spoke of colleagues in floods of tears, unable to cope with the introduction of new National qualifications, which replaced Standard Grade this summer.

Some pupils were said to be taking more than 40 assessments, with some being taken to their GP because they could not cope.

Andy Harvey, from the South Lanarkshire local association, said bureaucracy was "sucking the life" out of schools and called on the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to reduce the number of internal assessments.

Derek Ross, from Aberdeenshire, said workload had taken a personal toll on teachers in terms of their stress levels and general health: "In 41 years I have never seen my colleagues at such a low ebb. We need to make the SQA more accountable," he said.

Larry Flanagan, the union's general secretary, targeted workload in his speech to the conference. He said: "The fact is Scottish teachers have worked to breaking point and beyond to deliver these qualifications.

"They should be applauded for that, but that should not obscure the point that this is no way to manage change in our curriculum. SQA and others need to be held to account for what has been a visceral experience in our schools this session."

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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