Tensions between Scottish teachers and the government didn't get any release today after another combative session between the EIS, Scotland's largest teacher's union, and local officials looking to avoid a potential strike.
Negotiations between the EIS and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) have been strained since June over several issues including changes to the school system's pension policies (teachers wouldn't be eligible for pensions until they were 68, as opposed to the current system's 60), and supply teacher issues.
The latter of the two grievances has taken center stage of late. Summed up, supply teachers (that's what they call substitute teachers across the pond, apparently) are in critically short supply in Scotland. According to the teachers' union, this has to do with recent pay cuts that make the supply teacher position increasingly unattractive. To hear the government tell it, though, the supply teacher shortage is more to do with young people being able to find full time, gainful employment (so they don't need to supplement their income with part time work).
Add to that the government's inability (or unwillingness) to throw money at the problem, by raising supply teachers' starting income, for example, and what you get are pretty effectively stalled talks. Today's issues come after a failed attempt by Cosla to help account for the supply teacher shortage without, as we mentioned earlier, coming up off any more money.
The plan was to allow for teachers to cover their colleagues' absences and then claim that time later on as a kind of flex time. In other words, if one teacher covered another's classes or paperwork for two hours one week, then he or she would be able to take that time for him or herself at a later date.
The proposal was rejected by a wide margin (almost 3-2) as teachers claimed that this idea would essentially add to their workload without increasing the time they spent actually teaching students. Most teachers seemed to believe that the proposal would see them spending more time doing menial chores usually relegated to their teachers' aides and supply teachers.
As Cosla goes back to the drawing board, the EIS has determined that the groups should meet again in November before anything rash can be done.