An incredible thing happened last week. The General Teaching Council of Scotland sent its members an email informing them that the fees had been increased by £15, from £50 to £65 a year. And suddenly the world of social media went ballistic with rage. Apoplectic teachers unleashed a firestorming mix of criticism, disbelief, abject disappointment and dejection. They were unhappy at a 30% increase in the fees despite their own meagre pay awards decreasing in value compared to the rise of living costs in the wake of Tory austerity drives. They were angry at reading about how 5 key employees of GTCS all earned above £70000. They were angry at forking out the same cost despite some being part time and being offered no option for a monthly direct debit (one of the excuses given was that it was only an extra £1.25 a month). They were angry because not everyone even used the GTCS professional update system and those that did, didn’t rate it very highly. But also, many were angry because they simply didn’t seem to know what the GTCS actually does. The GTCS had carried out legitimate consultation and had passed the fee increase with a committee board with teachers in the majority. But that didn’t matter because 1000s of teachers had completely missed it. The only regular engagement that most teachers seem to have with the GTCS (beyond professional update and perhaps achieving professional recognition in an area of teaching) is the wee pint sized magazine that lands on their doormat 5 times a year.
Swept along by this tsunami of discontent I organised a wee snapshot survey using Microsoft Forms on our national Glow network. I wanted to know just how many teachers felt the same way. In a matter of hours the survey hit capacity at its maximum of 5000 responses. Here is a summary of the responses. A full version of the survey is here.
It’s not a positive read. Now, the survey itself is deeply flawed in its architecture (I created and posted it in the space of about a minute before the 9am morning bell) but the manner in which it was pounced on seems to suggest a general malaise within the teaching profession far beyond a ‘mere’ 15 quid. What are we upset about? Well, I can only speak for myself but I’m sick of the continual top down approach to improvement and change since the introduction of the National Improvement Framework. Top down and politically motivated changes are sadly common place in education but the last year has seen a rapid redirection of core educational values. These include the unstoppable momentum towards the death throes of standardised testing and the statutory centralised paternalism of the Governance Review. Matched with vast cuts in local council spending, cuts in support staff and a complete inability to recognise and include teaching grunts (like myself) in the process. Consultations were held during school days (which teachers can’t attend because we are working or there is no supply – and there is no supply because we made supply teaching a second class profession a few years ago. Wow, did they get that wrong!) and Glow Meets were organised (despite the fact that streaming video is often a nightmare for school networks and some LAs don’t even use Glow).
National agencies like the GTCS, Education Scotland and SQA (now, I’m primary but I can tell from Twitter that they’ve not been greatly popular either recently) just can’t seem to engage effectively with their core followers. And the more they dictate, the less we listen. Teacher Leadership is a key driver of the NIF (and there are currently some marvellous efforts from people like the Scottish College of Educational Leadership to raise the bar on this front, and the GTCS’s heart is certainly in the right place with regards to this too) but I just don’t see it on the ground. It’s taken 15 of our Earth pounds to shake a teaching profession, perhaps guilty of sleepwalking into the abyss, to realise the extent to which we may have reluctantly lapped up these changes and constant criticism of our skills and professionalism in the wake of PISA and SSLN results, to say WHIT!? NAE MAIR O YER SHITE! We had reached a tipping point.
There was a hell of a lot of pride mixed in with the indignant outpouring on (predominately) Facebook. I shared and felt their pain. These are teachers who in the same breath were helping a student teacher in the next thread with ideas for their first P7 class or sharing fantastic Robert Burns inspired artwork. We love what we do and given the right rules and conditions of engagement we will share and magpie our skills and ideas to the best of our ability. Professional update happens everyday on Facebook and Twitter.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. I hope the GTCS are listening and stop offering futile excuses like ‘it’s only an extra £1.25 a month’ and ‘many other professions pay much more.’ I actually have a high regard for much of the work they do. But the magazine is unnecessary, the professional update section of My GTCS is paper exercise that no one else sees and the Chief Exec’s salary of £95000 does not reflect an educational culture which is supposedly about ‘equity.’