there is no doubt that the Glasgow teachers’ strike on May 8 had a profound effect upon all teachers, North and South of the border. Strike is a dirty word to some teachers, an unattainable demonstration of militancy to many more. But the Glasgow teachers have shown that the strike is now a realistic weapon in the struggle to maintain and advance educational standards. In a section of the community preoccupied with demands for “professional” recognition, the strike has produced a feeling of self-respect and confidence.
The Glasgow teachers’ immediate demands were: an acceptable salary scale; the withdrawal of the government’s dilution proposals. But many of the strike’s causes are part of a more general background. Scotland has had intense pride in her educational traditions for centuries, but in recent years she had had to watch with growing exasperation the erosion of her educational standards by Government neglect and even by direct attack.
This year, for example, Lanarkshire, the second biggest educational area in Scotland, faced a cut of £10 million in her school-building programme over the next five years. This was due, technically, to the operation of the block grant in capital allocation to local authorities, a system teachers had fought desperately but vainly. Now hundreds of building projects, from complete new buildings to extensive re-modelling, are threatened. Page after page of the County Council minutes on the building position lists various categories: “Cases where provision is impossible
From the needed Government grant of £16½ million towards this rebuilding and modernising programme (this from a programme in which every single item had already been approved as educationally necessary by the Education Department itself) the Exchequer has lopped off £10 million. Brooman-White, Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, excused the cuts as due to insufficient technical resources. In a country where unnecessary but profitable petrol service stations spread like toadstools, only one new Senior Secondary School has been built since the war! Private affluence and public squalor at its meanest.
So there was anger over the physical conditions of our schools. There was anger too at the staffing situation. About 2,000 uncertificated persons were being employed in Scotland in a desperate attempt to conceal the shortage. Of these, nearly 700 were admitted by the Department itself to be seriously below any acceptable educational standards. In Calderhead Junior Secondary School in Lanarkshire, nearly half of the total teaching staff were uncertificated. In two of the four schools chosen to implement the still experimental “O” Level Certificate, 36 out of a total teaching staff of 126 were uncertificated.