Teacher Workloads

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 27 October 2016.

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Photo of Maurice Corry Maurice Corry Conservative

6. To ask the First Minister, further to the decision by the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association to take industrial action, what steps the Scottish Government has taken to resolve the issue of teacher workloads. (S5F-00397)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government’s education delivery plan, which was published in June, made clear our commitment to tackle bureaucracy and to address excessive teacher workload. We work with teachers, parents and other partners in education, both nationally and locally, to take concrete steps to address workload issues. Those include the recent announcement of the removal of unit assessments in the national qualifications. The removal of those assessments is part of a package of measures designed to address unnecessary bureaucracy and to liberate teachers to focus on what they do best—teaching young people.

Photo of Maurice Corry Maurice Corry Conservative

I thank the First Minister for that answer.

Members on the Conservative benches share the view that strike action is not appropriate. Nonetheless, there remains a serious issue with teacher workloads. The Scottish Government’s own figures show that between 2008 and 2015, there was an 11 per cent decrease in the number of secondary school teachers in Scotland, representing a loss of some 3,008 staff.

In particular, since 2007, more than 100 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teachers a year have been cut, with 187 fewer computing teachers, 410 fewer mathematics teachers, and 105 fewer chemistry teachers. That is clearly having a strong impact on teacher workloads in key subjects. In light of those statistics, what action is the Scottish Government taking to stem and reverse that trend?

The First Minister:

As the member will be aware, in the past couple of years, the Scottish Government has provided funding to local authorities to maintain teacher numbers. We encourage local authorities to continue to maintain those numbers to make sure that we have the right number of teachers in our schools to teach young people.

Workload is an important issue. It is why, since his appointment as education secretary, John Swinney has spent so much time and effort on working with teachers to try to address their legitimate concerns. The changes to the national 5, higher and advanced higher qualifications that were announced by the Deputy First Minister are part of a package of measures that are designed to address unnecessary bureaucracy and to take away from teachers workload that was felt not to be necessary and not to contribute to their job of teaching young people.

As a whole, the plans that we have in place—making sure that funding is getting to the areas of greatest need, bringing new transparency to school performance, our governance review, and making sure that power and responsibility lie where they should, which is as close to or in schools and as far as possible with headteachers—are all about a determination to ensure that teachers are able to do what they do best, and that the contribution of teachers and teaching helps us to raise the standards in education and close the attainment gap. We are absolutely focused on that and will continue to be so.