Edinburgh Council elections: Why education really must be a vital campaign issue – Alison Murphy

Edinburgh’s schools are in crisis. Years of austerity, and the pandemic, have driven us to breaking point.

By Alison Murphy
Monday, 11th April 2022, 4:45 pm
Nearly 70 per cent of Edinburgh’s teachers reported that they felt stressed most or all of the time (Picture: PA)
Nearly 70 per cent of Edinburgh’s teachers reported that they felt stressed most or all of the time (Picture: PA)

Teachers report more and more children are exhibiting extremely distressed behaviours, or are simply too cold, tired or hungry to be able to learn – and, with support services axed, staff are left to do what they can (often shelling out their own money to pay for food, pencils etc).

And this is before we get to the fiasco of the changes to exams over the last two years, or how teachers are supposed to meet the huge range of needs in their classes when additional learning supports have been cut.

Is it any wonder that, in a recent survey, nearly 70 per cent of Edinburgh’s teachers reported that they felt stressed most or all of the time? Stressed teachers are less likely to be able to teach well, and are far more likely to become ill and need time off.

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Equally worryingly, over 50 per cent said they would not recommend teaching as a profession. We are already struggling to recruit in some subjects, and this problem will only get worse unless action is taken to relieve burdens and allow teachers to do the work they love – helping pupils achieve and thrive.

Many of these problems are not unique to Edinburgh, and need national solutions. But, Edinburgh Council is not powerless. There are things that it can do that will make a real difference for our city’s children.

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The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) in Edinburgh has laid out six simple actions that, if taken by whatever administration ends up in control of our Capital after the local election, would go a long way towards improving things.

We are realistic in what we are asking – we know that budgets are under huge pressure. Indeed, some of what we are seeking either will cost nothing (such as giving guarantees to headteachers that the budget they get at the start of the year will not, later, be clawed back) or would even save money (we have a ridiculous number of pupil support assistants and teachers on temporary contracts – making them permanent would lead to huge savings in administrative costs, by avoiding constant rounds of recruitment).

Readers can find the full list of what we are asking for on the EIS’s website.

Edinburgh EIS has already approached candidates standing in the elections, to ask them to commit to delivering these six simple things. Now we need the citizens of Edinburgh to step forward.

If every candidate, every time they talk to a voter, is asked what they are going to do about education, then maybe, finally, we will see education prioritised, and we will be able to give Edinburgh’s children the education they deserve.

You don’t even have to agree with all the things we are asking for – you just need to show politicians that education matters to voters and that they must take it seriously. Only then will our schools be able to help our children fulfil their promise.

If children are our future, then surely this is the least we can all do to help make that future a brighter one?

Alison Murphy is local association secretary for Edinburgh EIS

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