Secondary schools in one-day strike

West Dunbartonshire secondary schools in one-day strike

Teachers' picket line in Clydebank

Image caption

The council's plans involve related subjects being managed together

All five main secondary schools in West Dunbartonshire have been closed because of a one-day strike by some teachers.

Members of the EIS union are protesting about planned changes to the schools' management structures.

The council said it was "saddened" the action was going ahead.

The EIS said the council's plans were financially driven and would see a cut in the number of deputy head teachers, principal teachers of subjects and pastoral care posts.

Following the strike, EIS members will start working to contract from Wednesday.

The council's plans involve related subjects being managed together in so-called "faculties" with one head. For instance, a school might have one "head of humanities" in charge of subjects such as English and modern languages.

'Severe workload'

The council argues similar structures are already in place at schools in many other parts of Scotland.

Nearly nine out of 10 EIS members who took part in a recent ballot backed industrial action.

The EIS said local teachers had serious concerns about the educational impact of the council's proposals, and the implications for what it called their "already severe workload".

They dispute claims the shake-up will save money, arguing it will actually cost more to begin with. Teachers who do not get one of the new promoted posts will have their salaries protected for three years.

Schools closed

  • Vale of Leven Academy
  • Dumbarton Academy
  • Our Lady and St Patrick's High School
  • St Peter the Apostle High School
  • Clydebank High School
  • Primary schools and special schools are open as normal

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Teachers are taking this action today as a last resort to defend the quality of education provision in West Dunbartonshire's secondary schools.

"While we appreciate that strike action can be disruptive, we also hope that pupils and parents will understand the reasons for today's action and will support our campaign to protect quality education for all secondary pupils in West Dunbartonshire."

Mr Flanagan added: "We are asking the ruling Labour Group on West Dunbartonshire Council to agree to a review of its decision and to enter into constructive talks with the EIS local association in order to prevent the dispute escalating."

New measures

Terry Lanagan, head of education services at West Dunbartonshire Council denied the change would see a cut in teacher numbers.

He said: "The system has been shown to work. If you look at the way attainment has continued to rise over the last 10 years in Scottish schools, there is no evidence that the introduction of faculties in anyway affects the attainment of pupils.

"And I would want to stress that the model that we are introducing is actually more generous than that which exists in many local authorities and there is no reduction in the number of teachers, there's no reduction in the amount of management time and there is no reduction in the amount of preparation and correction time."

A council spokeswoman said the authority wanted to end the dispute as quickly as possible.

"We met with senior union officials three days ago to try to avoid the need for strike action, and presented a package of nine new measures that would address the issue of workload at our secondary schools," she said.

"We also offered to work with Acas [the arbitration service] to resolve this through negotiation. Unfortunately, the EIS was unwilling to postpone the strike action."

It is highly unusual for Scottish teachers to go on strike – despite regular tabloid headlines warning of teachers' threats of industrial action.

Members of the EIS took part in a national day of action over pensions in 2011 along with many other public sector workers.

School trips

But the last time teachers in the union went on strike nationally because of an education dispute was in the 1980s.

Parents were officially informed that schools would be closed a week ago when they received a letter from the council's director of education.

Primary schools are not affected.

Although the five secondary schools are closed to pupils, staff who are not in the EIS were expected to turn up for work as normal.

A one-day strike is unlikely to make any lasting impact on children's education.

But a planned work to contract from Wednesday – and the risk of more strikes – could have more of an effect.

However, the union said it would not use the work to contract to target activities that will directly affect students such as sports clubs and school trips.

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