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Scotland: Education Secretary wants progress in cutting amount of time teachers spend in classrooms ‘as soon as possible’

The claim comes as members of Scotland’s largest teaching union backed calls for a strike ballot

SCOTLAND’S new Education Secretary has claimed she wants progress in cutting the amount of time teachers spend in the classroom “as soon as possible” as members of Scotland’s largest teaching union backed calls for a strike ballot. 

SNP minister Shirley-Anne Somerville told the Educational Institute of Scotland’s (EIS) annual general meeting (AGM) on Friday that her party’s promises to reduce the amount of time teachers spend with youngsters by 90 minutes a week would reduce stress for workers and create 2,000 new jobs. 

On Thursday EIS members backed calls for a strike ballot if a deal is not reached in the next 15 months to cut both class sizes and teachers’ class contact time.

The EIS wants a nine-year plan to be put in place by September 2022, with members at the AGM passing a motion saying they could ballot for “industrial action up to and including strike action” if this is not achieved.

Ms Somerville reiterated her party’s commitment, adding she wants local councils to do more to take on teaching staff on permanent contracts, insisting the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery needs to use “every teaching resource that we have available.”

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan thanked members for their devotion to the profession through the coronavirus crisis, calling for an education-led recovery where politicians stop using education as a political football. 

Mr Flanagan also said there must be an end to temporary and zero-hours contracts within schools and a vastly improved pay offer for teachers in the coming weeks. 

“Education should be, requires to be, a national effort focused on the health and wellbeing of children providing the resource need across the whole education sector,” he said.

“We need a greater vision from the Scottish Parliament and we need greater commitment because what has been discussed so far is barely in the foothills of what is really required to address the needs of Scotland’s young people. 

“We do need to challenge the Scottish government and the Parliament, I believe, to deliver on their manifesto promises.”

The calls come amid warnings Scotland is facing a second year of exam crisis unless the First Minister listens to pupils and campaigners.

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