Teachers and the Scottish government have started the 2013/14 session on a fractious note with the biggest union demanding an urgent injection of £3 million for up-to-date textbooks to support the new National qualifications.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said the extra money was needed because secondary schools lacked suitable classroom materials for National 4 and National 5 exams, which pupils will sit next summer for the first time in place of Standard grades.
Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, told SecEd he had written to Mike Russell, the education secretary, to make the case and offering to scope the level of demand among local authorities.
“I also cited his commitment to provide support where it was required or requested,” Mr Flanagan said, referring to the minister’s promise earlier this year to respond materially if teachers needed additional help with the costs of implementing Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).
However, the government has indicated it will not yield to the demand for more money, arguing that existing resources will cover the cost of textbooks and other teaching materials in the transition to the National qualifications.
“We continue to hear concerns from teachers regarding the resource implications of CfE, particularly the introduction of National 4 and 5 this year,” Mr Flanagan said.
“Teachers are very clear that the introduction of the new qualifications and the courses that support them are not cost-neutral to schools.
“While some resources were made available online late last session, there are clear implications for schools in terms of additional printing costs for pupil materials. Many schools will also face the prospect of replacing far more textbooks than in a normal year, due to the changes to the courses that pupils are working on.”
Half the stock of material that schools have is redundant, Mr Flanagan said. “We are talking about a much more significant change than normal. Nearly every subject has some changes in it. We have an immediate demand for extra money from the government for these materials.
“The EIS will continue to raise teachers’ concerns, and we will be attempting to quantify the additional resource needs across Scotland so that the Scottish government and Education Scotland are clear what more needs to be done to support schools in the delivery of the new National courses.”
Although Mr Flanagan was seeking immediate talks with Mr Russell, deadlock looked likely in the short term, with the possibility of escalation by EIS members if the money is not forthcoming.
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “Local authorities receive a substantial settlement annually from the Scottish government to fund education provision for their area. We do not envisage the advent of National 4 and 5s to place additional pressure on resources.”
By contrast, the last big curriculum reform, of Higher Still in 1991, was phased in over three years and schools were given dedicated funds to support its roll-out.
Language teachers, in particular, have complained of a woeful lack of appropriate material in various schools, with some having to find and translate their own texts for use by pupils.
The advent of the National exams will mark a pivotal year for Scottish education, which has been implementing CfE over the last few years. Generally, teachers have been positive about the rationale for the curriculum changes but are concerned about increased workloads and lack of preparation.
The shortage of up-to-date teaching materials has reinforced this grievance, which had already been aired at the union’s annual conference in June. Then, members carried a motion for a campaign of action, including possible strikes, to be in place by December.
EIS president Susan Quinn challenged Mr Russell to come up with measures to cut the “hoops of red tape teachers have to jump through” as a result of the implementation of CfE.
The row over textbooks also comes on top of disquiet over pensions reform, another issue that has raised the possibility of further industrial action, even though pensions are among the areas still reserved to Westminster.
The EIS is urging Holyrood to resist pressure to cut pension benefits and raise the normal pension age. Mr Flanagan has said the possibility of Scottish teachers having to work until they are 68 is an “unacceptable state of affairs”.