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Secondary teachers ‘must be at heart’ of education reforms in Scotland

Education in Scotland is to be the subject of reform (David Jones/PA)
Education in Scotland is to be the subject of reform (David Jones/PA)

Secondary teachers “must be at the heart” of the Scottish Government’s education reforms, a union chief is to say.

Catherine Nicol, president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), will address delegates at the union’s 77th Annual Congress in Crieff on Friday.

Ms Nicol is set to acknowledge the hardships faced by secondary school teachers during the coronavirus pandemic – during which annual examinations were cancelled and whole classes and year groups were sent home due to infection or low staff numbers.

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) into Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence prompted the decision for the country’s exams board, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), to be scrapped.

Education Scotland, the national body tasked with improving the quality of the country’s education system, is also set to have its inspection powers stripped following a report from academic Professor Ken Muir.

The changes are due to come into effect in 2024.

“The very nature of education is in question,” Ms Nicol is expected to say. “Incorporation of vocational courses is called for.

“When curriculum change takes place, there is an opportunity to develop course content that would enable the collection of naturally occurring evidence that can be used to support professional judgments on progress and level of attainment.

“Factors such as the architecture of the school day, the structure of the academic year, and activities unrelated to direct teaching of coursework must be taken into account.”

The working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions for young people, which Ms Nicol will say “cannot be overstated”.

Exam results protest
The SQA came under fire over its handling of examination results during the pandemic in 2020 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Nicol will say the new independent inspectorate “must instil a quality assurance culture that is based on supervision in the supportive sense of the word”.

However, she will acknowledge that “many in the profession will not be convinced that lessons have been learned”.

“Teachers must press for full inclusion in decision-making processes,” she will tell delegates, adding that an emphasis on supporting teachers in order to fulfil core duties will be “vital”.

The union will “stand ready to take action” if the next pay offer to its teachers is not “enough to retain our standard of living”, she will say.

“The campaign for a 10% pay increase in 2022-23 has begun,” delegates will be told, with Ms Nicol referring to the last pay offer as “derisory and far below what we would have chosen to accept”.

The congress will run on Friday and Saturday.

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