Voice Scotland Election Statement 2016

Date: 27.04.16
Election Statement ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections.


March 2016 

Voice Scotland Election Statement 2016 

Voice: the union for education professionals is a non-striking, not-for-profit trade union representing education professionals across the sectors. Voice is not politically affiliated, nor a member of the STUC. We are the first education union to achieve the national Customer First Award for services to members.We have launched our Election Statement ahead of the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections, setting out what the union believes should be the education and childcare priorities for the next Scottish Government to ensure a high quality education for our children and young people. 

Commitment to positive engagement with teacher and education unions when developing education policy

Education policy impacts on everyone and everything – pupils, teachers, support staff, parents, further and higher education institutions, industry and commerce.    

Change to education policy that is made without engagement with all relevant stakeholders and those who will be charged with delivering the policy change – especially when done at a pace to meet a political timetable rather than one which is for the benefit of pupils or the profession – has a detrimental impact on pupil education, progress and achievement.  

Furthermore, the aim of education policy development should not be to fulfil a political ideology, but to meet the development and learning needs of pupils to fulfil their personal, academic industrial or commercial aspirations.    

Commitment to supporting the improvement of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities for all education professionals

High quality CPD opportunities are a must for all education professionals. There is a risk of opportunities being eroded in the face of challenging economic circumstances for employers. 

Voice Scotland will continue to strive to support the CPD needs of members. Voice Scotland will also continue to work with partners in education to help ensure the availability of high quality CPD opportunities for members, such as the recent conference events held for school support staff facilitated by Education Scotland. 

Implementation of a “staffing standard” within schools, to ensure adequate numbers of all education professionals within an establishment

Teacher shortages within Scotland continue to be of concern, despite recruitment incentives implemented to date. Additionally, headteacher recruitment is extremely challenging in many areas of the country. Whilst a mandatory headship qualification will help to build confidence and skills to undertake the role, we remain concerned regarding the disincentive of the teacher being personally required to contribute to the cost of obtaining that qualification [Click on link for update, 23 March 2016.]  

It is also clear that support staff working within schools are especially vulnerable to local authority budget cuts. Our Classroom Assistant and Pupil Support Assistant members are making a key contribution to raising attainment for all within Scottish education; for example, in supporting literacy and numeracy activities in the classroom with groups and individual pupils. Raising attainment is not only a matter for teachers, but for all education professionals within an establishment in line with their individual remits. School support staff are often engaged with some of the most deprived children within a school and those with special needs. Voice Scotland is most concerned regarding the impact of reduced support staffing within schools and believes that a staffing standard, to ensure adequate numbers of all education professionals within an establishment, should be devised and implemented. 

Commitment to set up and implement a national pay and conditions bargaining framework for early years workers in Scotland

Recent research highlights qualified and unqualified childcare workers as being amongst the lowest paid. Qualified childcare professionals who have trained and undertaken academic and practical assessment are more likely to earn the minimum wage or a little above it for most of their career.  Promotion opportunities are limited and often provide greater responsibility, which is not matched or reflected by the accompanying salary increase.  

There is no benchmark for terms and conditions of employment and salary against which private and voluntary sector childcare providers can compare or aspire to.  Childcare has often been referred to as the 'Cinderella service', the poor relation of education.  Pre-school education and care is the start of the education journey for children and is the essential foundation for their education.  The important role of pre-school childcare and those professionals who work in the field should be reflected through their pay and conditions.  

The Scottish Government’s recent response to the Independent Review of the Scottish Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) and Out of School Care (OSC) Workforce indicated a commitment to the Living Wage for those working in the sector. However, Voice Scotland believes that a national pay and conditions structure, with pay levels reflective of the duties and responsibilities of early years workers, is what is required to successfully develop the sector and to attract a diverse range of applicants. As part of this, Voice believes that research should be undertaken to establish the range of terms and conditions of pay and employment of qualified childcare staff, to establish a benchmark position.  

Commitment to set up and implement a national pay and conditions bargaining framework for school support staff in Scotland

Support staff in schools carry out a vital role. They are essential members of the education team in schools who are highly valued by their teacher colleagues.   

Establishment of a national pay and conditions structure has not been a priority for Scottish Government, resulting in fragmented staffing structures and  pay and conditions for staff across the country, rather than a package which is a true reflection of the worth and value of their knowledge, experience and skill in complementing and supporting teaching and learning.  

The introduction of a national pay and conditions structure is long overdue, as is a coherent career structure supported by ongoing CPD.  In order to meet their obligations to pupils and provide high quality education, local authorities require funding levels that enable them to recruit and retain a qualified education workforce without the need to restructure and put jobs at risk in order to constantly cut budgets.  Further austerity cuts to education and failure to rectify education funding allocations are likely to have a detrimental impact on education, pupils, the education workforce and employment prospects of pupils. 

Conversion of zero hours contracts and other forms of casualisation within the further and higher education sector to terms and conditions ensuring parity with salaried staff

 The pay and conditions of FE staff have been eroded over the years and needs to be addressed to prevent a crisis in recruitment and retention. In particular, the use of zero hours contracts creates an unacceptable two-tier structure with regards to terms and conditions within the sector. Pay and conditions must be enhanced to reflect the increasing and changing role in the education system and the current lack of parity with school staff.    

Continue to tackle workplace bureaucracy with a view to reducing workload and promote work-life balance for all education staff

Voice Scotland is a member of, for example, the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT), the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Tackling Bureaucracy Working Group and the External Reference Group on Future approaches to inspection and review. 

Voice Scotland strongly supports the reduction of workplace bureaucracy within educational establishments which is the cause of long working hours and an inability to achieve a reasonable work-life balance. Voice Scotland will continue to work with stakeholders on these issues and believes that workload requires to be monitored nationally within Scottish education as change is pursued and implemented at a local level. 

Fair treatment of all staff subject to safeguarding allegations

Voice fully recognises and supports the fact that all children must be safe from harm at all times.  Voice also believes that staff under investigation should have a statutory right to anonymity unless convicted and an assurance that the outcomes of all investigations are fairly and accurately recorded and reported. 

Establish a nationwide register of asbestos use in school buildings  

There is inconsistency across local authorities and other school providers in relation to the management of asbestos in schools.  Many school staff are unaware of the location of asbestos within their schools, and therefore of the risks of exposure for them and pupils should any part of the building be damaged, however slight that damage might be.    

It is therefore necessary to raise awareness of the whole education team to the dangers of asbestos and how it should be managed, and how to challenge asbestos management practice and to report mismanagement and or likely exposure due to damage to buildings. 

[Further information: www.voicetheunion.org.uk/asbestos]

Voice Scotland Election Statement 2016

PDF version


Voice Scotland
Email: scotland@voicetheunion.org.uk
Tel: 0131 220 8241

Voice Press Office
Email: pressoffice@voicetheunion.org.uk

General Secretary Deborah Lawson
Email: deborahlawson@voicetheunion.org.uk