Fraserburgh Academy teacher Kay Barnett has ended her year as national president of Scotland’s largest teaching union - the Educational Institute of Scotland - by chairing its annual conference.
Speaking to delegates and guests at the formal opening ceremony of the Perth conference, Mrs Barnett, in her keynote address, warned that teachers’ patience with the wide-scale cuts agenda is running out and used the opportunity to warn Scotland’s local authorities and the government that education has taken its share of the pain for the economic crisis.
Mrs Barnett also warned that further attacks on education, or on the working conditions of teachers and lecturers, will face strong resistance.
Warning of the continuing threats to education she told delegates that “embedded within the general threat to education provision is, undeniably, the on-going attack on the conditions of service of Scottish teachers” and went on to severely criticise COSLA’s submission to the McCormac ‘Review of Teacher Employment’ which “explicitly states in all seriousness that “the primary role for a teacher should not be to teach children”!
Mrs Barnett went on to highlight the absence of any educational rationale behind the COSLA submission, “COSLA’s proposals might be dressed up in educational rationale but we all know that in reality they are cut from the cloth of efficiency savings” before stating that the “proposals also boldly display a basic lack of trust in the entire Scottish teaching profession and, should they come to fruition, would not deliver a teaching profession fit for the 21st century but a teaching profession not even fit for the 19th century”.
Addressing the issue of the recent pay and conditions offer that was accepted in a ballot of EIS members, she said that “the acceptance of such a difficult deal reflected the hard reality of a set of challenging circumstances relevant to an entire sector of public service workers”.
However, she went on to make clear her view that teachers’ employers and the government must face the fact that there might come a time when “patience and understanding will run out, cooperation and goodwill will dry up and, as for flexibility, Scottish teachers are like elastic bands – used to holding things together but, if stretched too far, will eventually snap”.
Speaking to the Herald, Mrs Barnett said that her presidential year had been one of great privilege but also considerable challenge, stating: “It has been a real privilege to represent around 60,000 Scottish teachers and lecturers across all sectors of education but, of course, the last year has been one of on-going challenge as we face unprecedented cuts to public spending and education budgets.
“I have visited many of our EIS local associations and learning communities across the length and breadth of Scotland meeting members and learners.
“As well as the political and educational agenda, I have enjoyed so many new experiences such as my last presidential visit which was to new territory for me, the Western Isles.
“It was here that I experienced four seasons – not in 1 day but in 1 morning! And, it was here that I sampled that well known Barra delicacy……scallop pakora!”
Mrs Barnett will continue until next June as national ex-president based in EIS headquarters in Edinburgh where she will support new president Alan Munro from East Renfrewshire.