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THE NASUWT is taking the message that teachers in Scotland need a new deal on their pay and working conditions to this week’s STUC congress.
The fact is that teachers make a highly complex and demanding job look easy.
But despite teachers’ hard work and dedication, there is growing crisis in the teaching profession and unless government and employers face facts and accept this, then the entitlement of all children and young people to high-quality education is being placed in jeopardy.
Pay is one part of the problem. There is a significant pay gap between teachers’ pay and other comparable graduate professions, making teaching unattractive and uncompetitive.
However, for the overwhelming majority of teachers, spiralling and excessive workload is the biggest blight on their professional lives, distracting them from focusing on teaching and learning, encroaching on their evenings, weekends and holidays and adversely affecting their health and wellbeing.
More than four in five of our members in Scotland say that their job has negatively affected their mental health.
Over three-quarters of teachers report feeling constantly anxious about their job and losing sleep over it.
Two in five have consulted a doctor or other medical practitioner on work-related issues.
The pressures of declining pay levels and excessive workload are now being exacerbated by teachers’ growing concerns about pupil indiscipline.
The majority of teachers tell us that there is a widespread problem of poor pupil behaviour across schools and within their own school.
Verbal and physical abuse and threats from pupils are no longer a rare occurrence for many teachers and support is all too often lacking from the schools to challenge pupil indiscipline.
Furthermore, many teachers report being made to feel they are to blame for the behaviour of pupils when they report abuse to their employer.
Add to this the catalogue of vile abuse from pupils and parents, particularly on Facebook, commenting on teachers’ sexuality, appearance and competence, making racist remarks, allegations of child abuse, and even death threats and threats of rape.
Is it any wonder that the toxic mix of pay cuts, spiralling workload and pupil indiscipline led to almost three-quarters of teachers telling us last year that they have considered quitting teaching altogether?
If the government and employers want to retain and recruit good teachers, then they need to take seriously these issues.
Teachers need more than politicians wringing their hands and saying they recognise there is a problem with excessive workload. They deserve better than being told that being verbally and physically abused is all part of the job. They need an end to the annual pay lottery.
Over the last few years the gold standard of pay and conditions of service for teachers in Scotland, once the envy of teachers across Britain, has been dramatically and shamefully eroded away. This has to end.
This is why the NASUWT has launched a campaign for a “new deal” for teachers in Scotland.
A new deal on working conditions which removes excessive workload burdens and enables them to focus on teaching and learning.
A new deal which takes action on pupil behaviour, ensuring teachers have a safe working environment and are treated with dignity at work.
A new deal which provides pay levels which recognise and reward them as highly skilled professionals.
As teachers’ pay and working conditions are inextricably linked to high standards of education, a new deal for teachers will benefit the children and young people they teach.
Teachers provide one of the most important of our public services. The work they do sets the firm foundations for those who become our doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers and indeed all workers who make such vital contributions to our public and private sectors.
Teachers change lives and build nations. A new deal in that context is a small price to pay.
Chris Keates is general secretary of the NASUWT.
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