Teachers in Scotland are set to strike one last time as part of their recent strike campaign, but more action is on the horizon without a new wage offer from Holyrood.
Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union in Inverclyde and Shetland will picket on Monday, with most primary and secondary schools closed.
Teacher unions have demanded a 10% pay increase for their members, but the Scottish Government has dismissed this as unaffordable and offered a 5% pay increase.
The 16-day strike wave, which has hit schoolchildren across Scotland, has failed to break Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville or local authorities, and unions have warned the strike will continue. .
Without an agreement, the strikes could continue until the exam period in the spring. This would mark the third exam period in the past four years to be affected by disruption following the impact of Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021.
The EIS has already announced two days of national strikes, on February 28 and March 1, followed by another wave of continuous strikes between March 13 and April 21.
On Sunday, Ms Somerville, who said Holyrood and the teachers’ unions were still “somewhat apart”, told the BBC that teachers’ unions needed to call off strikes ahead of exam period to ensure there were no disruptions.
“One of the things that I am very, very determined to ensure is that children and young people have very limited disruption to their education in the future – exams are a fundamental part of that,” she said.
“I hope that everyone involved in this dispute can agree that we don’t want the exams to be interrupted.”
The minister added that she was “absolutely” doing everything possible to end the dispute.
But Des Morris, the pay convener for the EIS teachers union, said there has been little movement from the government and councils since the 5% pay offer was made.
He said “it was becoming more and more difficult” to reconcile the ministers’ public statements with what is happening in the negotiations.
“Over the course of January, we have heard a series of statements such as ‘no stone is left unturned’ to find a resolution, offering to ‘look at all options’, statements that ‘there have to be compromises on both sides’, that the Scottish government is not ‘holding its ground,’” he told the same programme.
“But all of these statements culminated in our pay meeting on January 20, the last pay meeting to take place, when basically the message was: ‘Teachers, see that 5% offer we gave you six months ago? Take it or leave it’
“If that’s not digging in your heels, then I really don’t know what is.”
Morris added that there had been a “complete lack of urgency” on the part of the Scottish government and the council’s coordinating body, Cosla.
On the subject of exams, Morris said it was not for him to say whether there would be strikes that would affect students, adding that the EIS executive committee keeps its industrial action plans “under constant review.”