Scottish teachers threaten strike action

Teachers have threatened to go on strike unless the Scottish Executive does more to cut class sizes, it emerged last night.

Submitted by libcom on June 4, 2006

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country's largest teaching union, will debate calls for a ballot on industrial action at their annual conference in Dundee next week.

A similar motion tabled at last year's conference was defeated by delegates. This year's motion, which has been tabled by the union's Glasgow and Edinburgh associations, says a ballot should be held in October if an imminent report by a ministerial working group does not contain a "clear commitment" to reduce class sizes. An amendment by the union's ruling council will attempt to water down the motion by removing the October deadline.

The impact of class sizes on education standards has been a longtime concern of teachers, and the Scottish Executive has pledged that by 2007, primary one classes will be limited to 25. Ministers have also promised that maths and English classes in the first two years of secondary school will have a maximum of 20 pupils.

Ronnie Smith, the general secretary of the EIS, last year urged the union's rank-and-file not to go down the road of industrial action. "There is a consensus that class sizes need cut - we have to try to build a similar consensus on how far, at what pace and in what order of priority, given competing claims on resources," he said at the time.

"This way of working is difficult, labour intensive and, of course, we will not have it all our own way. But it is surely better than standing on opposite sides of the street hurling claim and counter-claim at each other."

Meanwhile, the conference will also hear calls for a ballot on industrial action if there is any deterioration to teachers' pension rights.