Edinburgh schools: Here's what teachers need from new council so they can properly educate children (and not go over the edge) – Alison Murphy, EIS Edinburgh

We have our new council. Committees are being formed and the work of governing resumes. What many in education will be wondering is, what difference will this make to Edinburgh’s classrooms? Will it help us ensure all children fulfil their potential?

By Alison Murphy
Tuesday, 31st May 2022, 4:55 am
Teachers need functioning computer systems (Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)
Teachers need functioning computer systems (Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

These days, many teachers use “success criteria”, with children encouraged to think about how they know if they have succeeded in a particular area.

Good success criteria focus on outputs – not how many hours are spent on a piece of work, but the quality of what is done. Perhaps we should apply this approach to the educational work of our new administration?

One area where improvements are needed immediately is information and communications technology (ICT).

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Across Edinburgh, teachers are struggling to print off worksheets. Hours are being wasted trying to log on or planning two versions of lessons in case the ICT fails or struggling with equipment that won’t do what is needed.

It is no use politicians telling us how many millions have been spent on upgrading ICT provision – that money is not delivering a system that works. A key success criterion for the council will be whether they can get to grips with the ICT crisis in schools. And this must be delivered urgently. The stress of not having the tools we need is sending many teachers over the edge.

What other outcomes will help Edinburgh’s children? More stable staffing is crucial.

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The constant churn of teachers and pupil support assistants moving from school to school because they cannot get permanent contracts is hugely disruptive to pupils, and hugely expensive for the council, as it deals with administrative costs that could be avoided if only it would create permanent jobs.

Aligned to this is the need to improve terms and conditions for our support staff, and to improve the diversity of our teachers, particularly in promoted posts.

So, will our new administration commit to delivering measurable outcomes in these areas? We also need to see improvements in how our supply teachers are supported to fulfil their vital role, and increases in the numbers of specialists working in schools.

If the council wants to see all children succeeding, then we need experts who can help class teachers overcome barriers to learning and give children individual support. This will also be vital if we are to reduce the levels of distressed behaviours that are causing so much disruption to learning.

One of the hardest things facing the council are decisions about the budget. The cuts we are facing are terrifying. Schools are already struggling to fund basic activities, and most headteachers will tell you that it is more money, and more stable supply of it, that they need if they are going to be able to deliver on the city’s priorities. So, a core outcome will be to find a way to guarantee that school budgets are protected.

Some of the above will not be simple to deliver, but all are essential if Edinburgh’s children are to get the education they deserve. Over the coming months, the EIS will be seeking to hold our politicians to account. We’ve said what the criteria for success are – let’s hope they can be delivered.

Alison Murphy is local association secretary of Edinburgh Educational Institute of Scotland