Edinburgh school strikes: Schools close as teachers' anger grows over lack of new pay offer

Edinburgh’s turn in 16-day rolling programme of teachers’ strikes

Teachers are now “really angry” at the lack of movement over their pay claim, a union leader said on Wednesday (January 25) as Edinburgh schools shut for the day during the latest one-day strike.

Alison Murphy, Edinburgh secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s biggest teaching union, said members were “extremely unhappy” there had been no new pay offer from the Scottish Government or local government umbrella organisation Cosla despite continuing industrial action and disruption to schools. And she predicted a bigger turnout on picket lines today to demonstrate their strength of feeling.

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Primary, secondary and special schools across the Capital will be closed, although special arrangements may be in place at some schools for pupils facing assessments. The council said Gorgie Mills and Prospect Bank special schools would be partially open, while any special arrangements in secondary schools were made by headteachers. Today’s walk-out involves not only EIS members but also those of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland.

Teachers are said to be increasingly angry at the failure of the Scottish Government and Cosla to make a new pay offer.

The teachers’ original claim was for a 10 per cent rise and they rejected a five per cent offer, but have since signalled that modest additional funding could be enough to settle the dispute. Ms Murphy said: “I think there will be more picket lines today than before. There has been no new offer, really since August – anything that has been put forward since then are just rehashes of the old offer that was already rejected. The Scottish Government keeps talking about compromise, but they seem to have confused the words ‘compromise’ and ‘surrender’ because they have not come back to us with anything new, so when they say compromise they mean we just have to give up. People are really angry now.”

Today’s strike is part of a 16-day rolling programme of stoppages, targeting two council areas each day. It follows nationwide walk-outs in primary schools on January 10 and secondaries on January 11 and an earlier national stoppage on November 24.

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‘We don’t want to be on strike’

Ms Murphy she said support for teachers among parents and the public appeared to be strong. “The last time we were out in Edinburgh, a couple of weeks ago, the level of public support was incredible. I stood on picket lines and I was amazed at how many toots and beeps and positive comments we were getting from people. And I know picket lines around the country over the past week and a half have been saying the same – very strong parental support because there seems to be no movement from the Scottish Government and Cosla and, as far as I’m aware, there are no new meetings scheduled.

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"Shirley-Anne Somerville says she is turning over every stone, but there are lots of stones, lots of options open to them and we are not seeing any sign of anything happening at all. We don’t want to be on strike, we don’t want to impact on kids, but we’re not left with any option because the Scottish Government and Cosla are not coming back with anything.”

She said without an improved offer, the industrial action was set to escalate. “If the Scottish Government and Cosla don’t come back with something substantive, an actual new offer, we have already announced there are two days of national strikes on February 28 and March 1, which also involves the SSTA and NAS/UWT – that’s right across the country, everyone out – and from March 13, another rolling programme of strike action across different areas for 20 days.”

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Edinburgh education convener Joan Griffiths has previously voiced her frustration at pupils missing more time in school due to the industrial strike action and urged the Scottish Government and Cosla to act speedily to “get this sorted” to avoid further strikes.