Education is too important for SSTA to play games with

You might think Scotland had more important things to worry about, but our national newspapers reckoned this was big news today.  The Education Secretary, Mike Russell, has thrown the SSTA (Scottish Secondary Teachers Association) off the Board of Management for the Curriculum for Excellence, the new education programme being rolled out in primary and secondary schools.

The Scotsman reckons the “SNP actions amount to bullying“.  The Herald’s opinion piece is more even handed, suggesting that the Education Secretary’s decision was “inevitable”.

Frankly, it’s about time the SNP government started tackling the vested interests that block change and progress at every opportunity.  The SSTA thought that by throwing its weight around, largely through the media rather than round the table at Board meetings, it could somehow slow or block implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence.  This, despite agreeing to it being implemented from the start of this school year, at an earlier date.

And also without a mandate from its members.  All it had was the result from an indicative ballot in June that showed a majority in favour of moving to a full ballot on whether or not to take industrial action over the Curriculum for Excellence.  But only 25% of the membership voted in this ballot.  How many members?  That will be just over 7000.  So on the basis of the views of 1750 teachers (out of over 25,000 secondary teachers in total) our children’s education was to be threatened unless their demands were met. 

How dare they.  Just as education faces the biggest cuts in a generation, with extreme pressure on budgets and classroom resources, this union wants to start playing games.  Just when our children need their teachers to be as professional as possible, and as committed as they should be, the SSTA want to down tools.  Oh, but they expect a pay rise this year, of course.  How bloody dare they.

The SSTA had three demands of local authorities in relation to implementation of the Curriculum.  But as the Head of Schools in the Scottish Government pointed out to the union’s leader, some of these demands contradicted the advice being given to schools by the Curriculum’s Management Board, advice that the SSTA had previously helped to draft.  Moreover, none of these concerns had previously been intimated at Board meetings. 

Apparently, the SSTA thinks the teachers’ voice on the Curriculum Board is outnumbered. There probably should be more teachers represented in its membership but not from this rump of a union.  Its paltry 7000 members pales into insignificance compared with the over 60,000 members of the EIS

And if anyone should be aggrieved at the lack of representation on this committee that oversees policy and implementation of the new Curriculum for Excellence, it should be parents and pupils themselves.  Parents have one representative only, pupils have none.  Instead, government, quangoes and employers’ interests make up the bulk of members.  Such loading of vital committees and bodies in favour of producer interests has to end.  At the very least, there should be a balanced membership of all interests – and none. 

Mike Russell deserves plaudits not brickbats for removing the SSTA from the Board.  It was the one guilty of bullying, not the Education Secretary.  Let’s hope it’s only the start of a long overdue cull….