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Teachers

Volume 77: debated on Monday 15 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the impact which the present teachers' dispute is having on the education of pupils in Scottish schools.

In the period from 15 January to the beginning of the Easter holidays 5·22 million pupil hours out of a possible total of 125·5 million have been lost in Scotland as a result of the teachers'industrial action. Selective strikes have affected all regions in Scotland but the action has been concentrated on certain schools in the constituencies of Ministers and Conservative MPs. The pupils in these schools have been seriously affected.The teachers' unions' boycott of curricular development work has led to postponement for one year of the introduction of phases 2 and 3 of standard grade, planned to begin August 1985. Also while Standard grade courses in phase 1 which have already started (English, mathematics, science and social and vocational skills) will continue for first examination in1986, Ordinary grade examinations in English, mathematics and arithmetic will also be retained in 1986 as an emergency measure for pupils who in the light of the teachers action cannot fairly be assessed on the basis of standard grade. We expect schools to continue teaching standard grade wherever possible.The 1985 SCE examinations are taking place as planned. The threatened disruption of procedures was countered by the Scottish Examination Board's contingency arrangements; and the Educational Institute of Scotland has advised teachers afterall to co-operate with the holding of practical examinations, and the submission of project work and internally assessed marks. The board cannot make allowance in marking for loss of teaching time resulting from the dispute but it will be taken into account as grounds for appeal, and appeals can be made on the basis of available evidence for A and B band awards as well as simply against failure.I am extremely concerned about the effects of the dispute and I expect education authorities to do everything possibleto limit the damage and inconvenience caused to pupils and their parents. The Scottish Education Department has written to authorities asking for a report on the action being taken, particularly for pupils who are to sit examinations this year and next. We have suggested various steps which could be considered such as opening schools during the holidays and providing financial assistance to enable pupils to receive private tutorial help.In addition, we have asked authorities to take account of such powers as they may have to suspend employees who refuseto work normally, to deduct pay in respect of work not performed and to dismiss employees and offer re-employment under new contracts. Authorities may also wish to consider taking legal action against any of the teachers' unions, on the basisthat the union may be acting unlawfully in causing the authority to breach its statutory duty to provide adequate and efficient school education.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will set up a committee to undertake a complete review of the educational system in Scotland covering pupil education and supervision, teachers' conditions of service and pay structure, teacher grading according to ability and qualifications, shortages of teachers in engineering, maths, science and technological subjects, and other related matters.

I do not consider that this is necessary. The Scottish Education Department, with the relevant statutory and advisory bodies and the education authorities as appropriate, keeps the various aspects of the educational system in Scotland under close review.