Calls to cut teachers' time in classroom

3 June 2019, 15:09 | Updated: 3 June 2019, 15:11

Male teacher

Calls for teachers to cut the time they spend in the classroom to 20 hours a week or less are to be debated this week.

Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, will discuss demands from some local branches to reduce classroom time to as low as 17.5 hours a week.

Such a move would allow teaching staff to spend more time marking and preparing for lessons within the working day, reducing the amount of time they spend doing this at home in the evenings and at weekends.

Coupled with the reduction in classroom hours, teachers will also consider if class sizes should be cut to 20 across the board.

A motion from EIS local associations in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire states that workload and helping children with additional support needs (ASN) are "still major causes of stress for teachers".

To tackle this they say the trade unions should campaign to reduce class sizes to a maximum of 20 in all mainstream classes, and also "campaign to secure a negotiated reduction of maximum class contact time for teachers to 20 hours per week and to increase preparation and correction time to 10 hours per week".

A similar motion from the union's Edinburgh association calls for "maximum class contact hours of 17.5 hours a week" coupled with maximum class sizes of 25 - apart from practical subjects where it says classes should have no more than 20 pupils.

It wants these changes to be "progressed on an incremental basis" so they are fully in place by August 2025.

The motions will be put to the vote during the three-day-long EIS annual general meeting, which gets under way in Perth on Thursday.

Teachers will gather there after winning a 13% pay increase, staggered over three years, from the Scottish Government and councils.

Union general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "This year's event comes following the significant success of the EIS campaign on teachers' pay - a campaign that was originally outlined in an AGM debate two years ago.

"While the Value Education, Value Teachers campaign has achieved its aims on improving pay, this year's AGM will seek to move forward related campaigning issues such as tackling severe workload, reducing class sizes, and improving ASN provision."

Mr Flanagan added: "We have a total of 59 motions to be debated at this year's AGM - covering a wide range of education, equality, employment relations, salaries and organisational matters.

"The AGM will shape the priorities for the EIS, and for Scottish education, in the year ahead. While teachers have clearly welcomed the success of the campaign on pay, there are many other challenges that must be addressed to ensure that Scotland's education system can continue to offer the best opportunities for all young people."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We recently reached agreement with the EIS to work collaboratively to tackle critical issues facing the profession including workload and teacher empowerment, and removed the threat of industrial action through an improved pay offer.

"We have been undertaking a range of actions to reduce teacher workload, acting to clarify and simplify the curriculum framework and to remove unnecessary bureaucracy, while our education reforms will also create new opportunities for teachers to develop their careers."

He added: "There are now more teachers than at any time since 2010 and the number of primary teachers is the highest since 1980.

"All local authorities are committed to maintaining a national pupil-teacher ratio of 13:7 through the teacher numbers agreement with Cosla.

"The average size of primary one classes has been dropping consistently in recent years, which is particularly important in helping to close the attainment gap between children from the most and least deprived backgrounds as early as possible."