High schools in Dundee face the threat of wider industrial action amid a dispute over plans to remove principal teacher posts.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has already said there will be a strike on June 22 to protest against the introduction of a faculty system. Now the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) is seeking views on whether its members should take part and has launched a consultative ballot.     

In a message sent out today, general secretary Seamus Searson accused the city council of failing to understand or accept “the need to negotiate and reach an agreement with the recognised teacher unions at the Dundee Negotiating Committee for Teachers (DNCT)”. He also warned that the authority’s approach was evidence of a “deliberate policy” aimed at undermining the committee and ignoring the place of trade unions.

Under the faculty system, which is already the norm across much of Scotland, subjects are brought together and run by a single manager or "curriculum leader". Typical groupings include Expressive Arts, Social Studies and Languages. This contrasts with Dundee's current arrangement in which specialist principal teachers are appointed for individual subjects.

READ MORE: Dundee secondary teachers to strike over council faculty plans

City education bosses said the change was initially agreed by councillors three years ago but delayed due to the Covid pandemic. They stressed it would be a key part of efforts to boost attainment.

However, in his message to SSTA members, Mr Searson said: “This misunderstanding of the duty of Dundee City Council to reach agreement with the trade unions was reinforced in its recent press release… The document mentions engagement with trade unions but fails to acknowledge the importance of reaching an agreement as seen in the following deliberately misleading statements.

'Over the past three years, council officers have met regularly with local trade union representatives to discuss, and consult on, the implementation of faculty structures in secondary schools.’

'Ongoing changes have been made because of feedback from trade unions during these planned meetings, while updates were always shared with trade unions.'

‘Dundee City Council is hoping and willing to continue talks with the trade unions.’"

HeraldScotland: SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson has sent a message to members in Dundee.SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson has sent a message to members in Dundee.

Mr Searson stressed that no agreement had been reached, adding: “It highlights the council’s determination to undermine the DNCT and ignore the place of teacher trade unions. The SSTA is of the view that such actions [are] just the start of deliberate policy that will not end with this particular issue but for far more detrimental measures in the future.

“You will be aware that our sister union the EIS is preparing for industrial action in the coming weeks and will be continued into the next session and it is, therefore, essential that the SSTA seeks the views of its members on whether they are prepared to take industrial action in the coming months in attempt to resolve the dispute with Dundee City Council. The SSTA will continue to work to resolve the situation through negotiation.”

Asked to comment on the SSTA ballot, a council spokesperson referred The Herald to a previous statement by Stewart Hunter, children and families convener, who said the re-organisation was “designed to improve the quality of learning and teaching by providing enhanced whole school leadership that can better support pupils and improve outcomes”.

He added: “Individual head teachers – in consultation with their teachers and in partnership with senior officers – are creating a faculty structure which best supports their school’s curriculum, leadership, and management requirements within delegated staffing budgets.

“Faculty structures will not mean any reduction in teacher FTE (full time equivalent) in any school. Quite the opposite, our staffing levels will be enhanced.”

READ MORE: Secondary teachers to go on strike in Dundee

Councillor Hunter also insisted it had never been the authority's intention to impose a one-size-fits-all model. He said: "Head teachers have been clear with us that this is what they want for their schools. They believe that faculties, tailored to their own schools, will benefit their young people.

“Over the past three years, council officers have met regularly with local trade union representatives to discuss, and consult on, the implementation of faculty structures in secondary schools.

“Ongoing changes have been made because of feedback from trade unions during these planned meetings, while updates were always shared with trade unions. Dundee City Council is hoping and willing to continue talks with the trade unions.

“We will also be talking to principal teaching staff about the options that will be available for them going forward, as well as updating families about what these changes will mean for their children’s education.”

Secondary schools in Dundee are due to move to the new system on a phased basis from August.