Edinburgh school strikes: Primary school teacher explains why they are going on strike

Teachers due to walk out next week over pay dispute

An Edinburgh primary school teacher has spoken to the Evening News regarding the planned strike by teachers across Scotland next week over a pay dispute. The EIS, Scotland's largest teachers' union, said teachers would strike in nearly all Scotland's schools on Thursday, November 24, in the first national stoppage by the union for almost 40 years, in pursuit of a 10 per cent increase in pay.

Teachers turned down an offer of a five per cent rise, with the EIS saying that 96 per cent of its members backed a teachers' strike on a 71 per cent turnout. COSLA said it will remain in active discussions with unions. The Edinburgh teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, explained why she and other teachers are taking industrial action.

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She said: “The main reason we are going on strike is because there has been a 26 per cent real terms cut in pay since 2008 for teachers. A teacher on the top of the scale in 2008 was on around £32,583. The same pay point is now £42,346, but the RPI inflation index has increased by 56.4 per cent – and that gives a real terms pay cut of 26 per cent.

Teachers are due to go on strike next Thursday, over a pay dispute. Stock photo of teachers marching for better pay in 2018. Photo by John Devlin.

"We accepted a pay rise of 2.22 per cent for 2021, but that was only accepted in January this year, and it was on the basis that this year’s increase would be an inflation-plus award. And it was communicated to COSLA and the Scottish Government that this was the only reason we were accepting it.

"We asked for a 10 per cent rise this year and the most they have went up to is five per cent, which still doesn’t make up for last year’s reduced pay. Teachers feel that when you receive a pay rise it should actually be a pay rise, and the only way to get that is with an inflation-related pay rise. Otherwise, it’s just a real term cut every time.”

‘It has become untenable to stay in this situation’

The primary school teacher went on to say that teachers are already struggling on their current pay, and schools are struggling to retain staff, with recruitment becoming a real issue. She said: "The mood is that we don’t want to disrupt the learning of children, but it has become untenable to stay in this situation. Many teachers are struggling to make ends meet, and are looking at leaving the profession to go into the private sector. And some are having to utilise foodbanks to support their families.

"COSLA doesn’t seem willing to accept that staff in schools should not be getting a real-terms pay cut and that more needs to be done to keep people in the profession. We hope we get a pay reward that actually recognises that the situation can’t go on.

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"I just worry that good people are going to continue to leave the job, recruitment is already really challenging, particularly for promoted posts. Many schools are in the situation where they have acting headteachers, which leads to little stabilisation and has a negative effect on the education of all children in the school. Staff in schools were key workers and had to provide education in a challenging time. One way to show those staff are valued is to give us a fair pay increase and that would go some way to retaining staff.”

In response, a COSLA Spokesperson said: “Scottish Local Government values its entire workforce, of which teachers are a key part. Making an offer that is affordable and enables councils to protect the whole of education services and ultimately improve outcomes for children and young people. Along with the Scottish Government, we are working closely and at pace to ensure a revised offer can be brought forward. We will remain in active discussions with our trade union partners.”