The Government is committed to reducing class contact time for teachers by 90 minutes per week by the end of the current parliamentary session, and work is on-going with our key stakeholders to achieve that aim.
To inform those discussions, I have commissioned an external modelling and research exercise, which will consider a range of factors including current teacher numbers, pupil to teacher ratios and the projected decline in the number of school-age children in Scotland. Any reduction in class contact time will require the agreement of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers.
That is so slow. To claim that the manifesto commitment that was so breathlessly delivered in 2021 was never intended to be implemented for another five years is, frankly, to take teachers for fools.
Teachers are struggling now, and they need the promise to be delivered now. Will the cabinet secretary set out exactly what she has done, since she came to her post, to deliver the policy much sooner than she has indicated?
In my initial response to Willie Rennie, I set out the action that I have taken since coming to post as cabinet secretary. I have commissioned the external modelling work that we require at a national level to look at class contact time at local level. We do not yet have that detail. I do not yet have that report, which will inform the progress that needs to be made in delivering the commitment.
However, I absolutely agree with the sentiment behind Mr Rennie’s question. Reducing class contact time is vital, particularly when it comes to workload, but also when it comes to school reform, which is another substantive issue to which the profession will respond in due course. I look forward to working with Mr Rennie to that end.
The workload reduction task force in England has made a number of recommendations to address teacher workload pressures. Many suggest that those are easily mappable on to a Scottish situation. Which of those recommendations does the cabinet secretary think are particularly worthy of consideration, and what is she doing to implement them?
I have to confess that I have not seen that group for England, nor its recommendations, and I am not sure that recommendations that have been made in other parts of the United Kingdom would necessarily always apply to the Scottish system. That being said, I would be more than happy to look at recommendations that have been made in other parts of the UK, albeit that I recognise that education is devolved.
The cabinet secretary will be aware that similar reports were written in Scotland almost 10 years ago. The workload reduction task force and the working group on tackling bureaucracy highlighted a number of areas—including forward planning, assessment, monitoring and so forth—that could help to reduce workload. I know that trade unions have written to the cabinet secretary about that. Will she revisit the actions in the report, and is she willing to meet trade unions and me to discuss the matter?
I regularly meet teaching trade unions, and I am keen to work with them on the issue, which is part of our wider response to school reform in a post-Covid environment. I recognise the challenge, and I will continue to engage with trade unions and with Pam Duncan-Glancy on the issue.