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MUCH has changed since the first TUC Congress, but the value of trade unionists from across the country meeting together to promote and protect workers’ rights remains as strong today as it did in 1868.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s largest teaching union, will move two important motions at this year’s congress.
The first, Motion 56, deals with data misuse in education and the shallow manner in which political interests use data to promote their own policy agendas, frequently to the detriment of effective learning and teaching in schools.
This often leads to damaging practices such as target-setting, league tables and “teaching to the test” approaches, each of which is counter-productive for schools and pupils.
In Scotland, the current political storm over the use and misuse of Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) in schools, particularly in the first year of primary school, has sparked protest from parents, teachers, academics and politicians alike.
The introduction of SNSAs, largely as a generator of data for government, has led to a joint campaign of opposition from unions, parents and other supporters of Scottish education.
The motion highlights the need for all assessment in schools to be teacher-led and supportive of the learning experience for pupils, rather than driven by a political desire to gather data, measure and compare.
It also goes on to cover the distinct but equally troubling issue of the covert gathering of data and potential misuse of this data with implications for personal privacy and security.
The second motion to be moved by the EIS, Motion 75, highlights ongoing concern over the Turkish government’s continued mistreatment of workers it perceives to be opponents of the state.
Members of the Kurdish community have been particularly targeted by the government’s actions.
Since the 2016 Turkish election, some 60,000 people have lost their freedom and 150,000 have lost their jobs, including 21,000 teachers, in the ongoing purge by the government.
Teachers have been imprisoned on spurious charges and prominent imprisoned teacher activists such as Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca had to resort to severe and life-threatening hunger strikes to attract attention to their plight.
Many teachers found out they had been dismissed from their jobs through finding their names on lists of sacked workers published on the internet. The reasons for the sacking are often never officially revealed, though most suspect that their involvement in industrial action in opposition to Turkish military operations was the catalyst.
The EIS trusts that congress will reaffirm its call for the Turkish government to reinstate the tens of thousands of unfairly dismissed public servants and resolve to further support Turkish trade unions, such as Egitem-Sen, fighting back against government repression.
We also hope that congress will seek to persuade the British government to actively support the reinstatement of dismissed workers and to demand the upholding of academic freedom.
In these times of growing uncertainty, both within our own borders and further afield, it is essential that all workers can unite through their unions and through national and international trades union organisations to stand up for their rights. This year’s congress is an important reminder, both to workers and to the government, that unions will continue to fight to protect us all.
Larry Flanagan is general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland.
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