New FM should show teachers’ unions who’s boss

Just when we thought there might be a brief lull with no scheduled elections this year, following the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Scottish Parliament’s ability to hold a referendum, the independence debate went into something of a hibernation and the Scottish Government scratched its head on the head what to do about the UK government’s deadlock on gender reform legislation, the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon which was a bombshell has given us a Scottish National Party leadership contest.

It was explosive. In a party accustomed to internal debates, let alone the externalization of internal debates, the three candidates for the post of First Minister opened a can of beans and projected them across the room.

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Scotland is a troubled country. Some of these are replicated throughout the developed world, with the most obvious example being economic stress. The economy is clearly Scotland’s most important policy area. A growing economy is a prerequisite for funding public services and the foundation of a prosperous nation. A new Scottish poll tracker from Redfield & Wilton Strategies shows that voters across all major parties are united and it is therefore right that the SNP leadership election should place an emphasis on the role of economic growth.

However, some of Scotland’s problems are homegrown and are not shared by our counterparts in Europe. The most important of these is education. Schooling is the most important public service that the state provides to the people. Good schooling, of course, increases the nation’s base of intelligent, productive people, but it also leads to more workers, more productive workers, a broader tax base with higher tax revenues, less crime, better physical and mental health, and a reduction in welfare dependency. education is the wheel; everything else is gears.

Scotland’s wheel is currently not turning. That our education system is failing because a lack of ambition and an allergy to excellence level our children is one of Scotland’s worst kept secrets. It should be second to Economics in the stack marked Urgent for the next First Minister.

And that’s why last week’s renewed salary offer to Scottish teachers was such a regrettable decision. This may seem like a counterintuitive conclusion. If I value education so much, shouldn’t I also value teachers? And indeed I do. I think the role teachers play, the impact they have on our children and the consequent impact their performance can have on Scotland’s economy and society requires them to be among the highest paid public servants in Scotland .

Last week’s renewed salary offer offers teachers a nearly 15 percent pay rise over two years (dubbed “poor” by unions; readers may want to compare it to their own pay rise, if they got one). .

Teachers are now being paid nearly £40,000 after completing their probationary year. As an illustration it may be interesting to know that this is several thousand pounds more than that of a doctor at the relevant stage in his career, not counting the doctor who has to spend several thousand euros more on ongoing investigations, regulatory fees, insurance and membership her medical royal college. The working hours and holiday entitlements of these two professions are of course also quite different.


Still, I have no real problem with teachers earning that salary; In fact, I think it’s positive and I hope it will attract more highly qualified educators to our schools.

The decision was unfortunate not because of the outcome, but because of the process. Scotland’s teachers’ unions once again stared at the Scottish Government and the Scottish Government blinked. This unfortunately fits the mold and is what bodes so ill for the future of Scottish education.

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In 2018, as Minister for Education, John Swinney tried valiantly to turn the tide on Scotland’s faltering school performance. His Education Act was designed to empower school leaders and give them control over their budget, curriculum application and hiring so they can hire the teachers of their choice. In summary, Mr. Swinney has tried to import the best and most successful aspects of European (especially Scandinavian) schooling.

Readers with school children will note that this excellent initiative never saw the light of day. It was killed by Scotland’s teaching unions. Killed because Scotland’s teachers’ unions saw the decentralization of power to school leaders as a harbinger of a disintegration in their ability to push their agenda nationally.

Unlike teachers’ unions across Europe, who are productive, collaborative actors committed to improving children, parents and teachers, our unions are largely disinterested in educational outcomes or the people who create them, focusing instead on inputs, processes and power.

This was also evident in the school strikes, where the power imbalance between the unions and the government was most acute. Like all playground bullies, teachers’ unions attack when they see weakness. Their targeting of the most disadvantaged students in certain cabinet secretaries’ constituencies was a particularly vindictive move, but one that came as no real surprise.

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The unions are the only winners. Everyone else lost. Children have lost as if they haven’t lost enough since Covid; Some of the older children who are in the midst of exams could be set back in their lives because of these strikes. Parents have lost out, almost always both financially and through the deterioration of their children’s education. The teachers have lost too, not financially of course, but the behavior of their unions has damaged the teachers’ reputation with parents so badly that it will be difficult to rebuild.

We can expect more to come. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and we should be nowhere near certain that these strikes have ended.

Scotland’s teachers’ unions are a malevolent force. They were malicious in Mr. Swinney’s attempts to strengthen heads. They have been malicious during government efforts to reopen schools after the Covid pandemic. And they are malicious now.

As we enter a new term of government in Scotland we should rebalance the relationship with teachers’ unions. Through our elected government, we are accountable. Not you.

Andy Maciver is the founding director of Message Matters and Zero Matters New FM should show teachers’ unions who’s boss

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