Teachers will not be expected to work longer hours for free, according to Douglas Ross, as he responded to workload concerns amid Scottish Tory proposals to extend the school day.
Unveiling the party’s local election manifesto in Glasgow on Thursday, the Scottish Conservative leader pledged to make education their “number one priority”.
That includes pressuring the Scottish Government to fund a pilot extension to the school day “to further help pupils to catch up on missed learning”.
The proposal received a backlash, including from Ross Greer, Scottish Greens education spokesman, who said extending the school day would be a “disaster for the mental health of an already struggling generation”.
And it could further exacerbate teacher workload concerns as the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) estimated 61% of more than 16,000 teachers surveyed reported their workload increasing “significantly” during the pandemic.
However Mr Ross, whose sister is a teacher in Moray, said he understood the “huge workload” teachers have experienced in the last two years.
And during the proposed pilot scheme, teachers would be given additional pay to compensate for additional hours worked, he said.
Speaking at a campaign event in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, on Friday, he told the PA news agency: “I absolutely know the huge workload that teachers have gone through over the last two years.
“The work that teachers have done throughout the pandemic and continued to do has been absolutely immense.”
He added: “[Teachers] won’t be asked to work for longer in this pilot without any remuneration. They would be paid for the extra hours they do.
“In some cases, it may be helpful that they can extend their day to support more pupils throughout the day because they are being asked to do an awful lot in a constrained amount of time when young people are preparing for exams and need as much help as possible.”
School pupils have missed a great deal of their education because of Covid-19, he said, and therefore catch-up must be a priority.
Tory councillors will also set up local tutoring schemes and provide additional funding for after-school classes.
Mr Ross added: “What we’ve suggested in the manifesto is a pilot scheme. This is similar to a scheme that has been launched in Wales.
“It’s looking at opportunities to increase the school day in these pilot schemes to help pupils catch up because there is no doubt the last two years of disruption have been absolutely difficult for many, many young people.”
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