Scottish teachers ‘strong-armed’ to keep quiet about failings

Teachers are being “strong-armed to keep their mouths shut” about a teaching crisis in Scotland’s schools, Ruth Davidson has claimed.

The Conservative leader said an anonymous primary school teacher had been threatened with disciplinary action for contacting the education secretary about failings in the system.

The teacher, writing to John Swinney, told him that he could not appreciate the extent of the problems because “when you visit schools people are most likely to tell you what you want to hear”.

The teacher added that a colleague had arranged to raise concerns with Mr Swinney in person but backed down after being threatened with disciplinary action by the local council.

Scottish teachers ‘strong-armed’ to keep quiet about failings

The teacher, who has more than 13 years of experience, told Education Secretary John Swinney in a letter: “I am not sure of the extent to which you are aware of how bad things are.

“When you visit schools, people are most likely to tell you what you want to hear, through fear of repercussions. If you were able to canvas teachers directly, perhaps through an anonymous survey, then that would show you the real struggles that teachers are having.

“I sincerely hope that you take the content of this letter very seriously, because I know that I am starting to feel quite disillusioned with the SNP Government’s lack of concern for our failing education system at present.

“I do believe that this is down to a lack of understanding of real difficulties schools and teachers face.”

The teacher said a colleague had arranged to meet the Education Secretary to raise concerns directly – but was told “if they went ahead with this meeting they would be disciplined”.

Raising the issue at First Minister’s questions, Ms Davidson said: “What has it come to when public servants with experience and knowledge in their area are being strong-armed to keep their mouths shut because it might embarrass the Education Secretary?”

She demanded to know if either Ms Sturgeon or Mr Swinney knew about this.

She said: “We’re not talking about a political opponent here, this teacher isn’t point scoring, we’re talking about a teacher who in the letter makes clear that she is an SNP supporter and voter and yet she now fears she isn’t being listened to and has to speak out under the cloak of anonymity in order to avoid being stamped on.”

Ms Davidson complained there was a “culture of fear and secrecy that is currently stopping people from speaking out because of the repercussions for their careers”.

But Ms Sturgeon was insistent teachers and other public servants can raise concerns with her and her ministers.

She stressed it is “unacceptable” for councils to use the threat of disciplinary procedures to prevent staff from speaking out.

The First Minister said: “There are many serious issues in that letter that Ruth Davidson could have raised today, issues that this Government is working hard to address with the teaching profession and others, but on this issue she is on extremely weak ground.

“In this case the Deputy First Minister agreed to meet a teacher, it was the local authority who advised that teacher not to meet.

“We do not decree that local authorities should do that – on the contrary any decree coming from me today to local authorities is that is unacceptable, that teachers should be free to contact me as First Minister, the Deputy First Minister as Education Secretary, or any member of my Government.

“Let me issue this message to teachers or any other public sector worker across the country – come and tell the Government how you feel about your job and public services, whether that is good or bad.


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