John Swinney challenged over £100,000 salary payments for college top brass
LEADER OF TEACHERS’ UNION SAYS ‘IDEA THAT SCOTTISH EDUCATION IS FAILING IS NONSENSE’
EDUCATION Secretary John Swinney has been challenged by the leader of the Scottish teachers’ union over claims that nearly 20 managers at Glasgow’s biggest college are paid £100,000 a year.
Swinney came under fire over pay for the “top-level management structure” of colleges during an SNP conference fringe meeting in Aberdeen hosted by the EIS teaching union. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan made the claim during a head-to-head debate with Swinney on “standing up for Scottish education”. Flanagan told Swinney “there is a need to stay focused on the day-to-day job of delivering high-quality education in Scotland’s schools (and) colleges” despite the ongoing independence debate.
The union leader went on to tell Swinney there was an “unfortunate trend around the narrative about the failure of Scottish education”. Flanagan said: “The idea that Scottish education is failing is nonsense. We totally reject the idea that school standards are falling and that we are failing pupils.”
Flanagan claimed a major problem was the growth of excessive pay packages for college management, while frontline funding for further education services and schools was starved of cash. He singled out one college, where he said up to 19 managers were paid more than £100,000 each a year – a figure he claimed his union’s further education section has established.
He said: “One of the challenges in FE is the lingering nature of the management structure. The further education lecturers’ association conference of the EIS said that 19 people (managers) in one college are earning over £100,000. We need lecturers in classrooms rather than this top-heavy management structure.”
When asked by the Sunday Herald during the meeting which college he was talking about, Flanagan, who was a teacher in Glasgow, said: “It’s a very big college and it’s very close to where I’m from.” Speaking after the meeting, when asked, he confirmed it was Glasgow’s “biggest” college – which is the City of Glasgow College.
Swinney, when asked about the £100,000 payments during the fringe meeting, said institutions should seek not to have “excessive management costs”.
He said: “I was widely criticised for reforming the further education sector and I believe it’s a necessity to tackle duplication and overlapping. During my time as Finance Secretary I constantly challenged the system to hold its costs down, to not have excessive management costs and I would apply these same points to the college sector.”
Meanwhile, Flanagan warned Swinney the Scottish Government risked making the teaching profession less attractive unless it increased pay levels.
Speaking during the meeting, he said: “We believe we are way past the time for teachers to have a decent salary increase. Teaching is no longer seen as an attractive profession. We’re absolutely not in a teacher crisis, but we have an early warning sign.”
The Education Secretary, also during the meeting, said: “We have a strongly performing education system in Scotland.”
Stuart Thompson, vice-principal finance & HR, at the City of Glasgow College, said: “City of Glasgow College is the largest college in Scotland and has the highest rate of student success in Scotland for full-time students. The college has 1,400 staff and 30,000 students and the college board approves appropriate senior management pay.
“Unfortunately, the EIS are currently frequently issuing incorrect information to create negative publicity. I can confirm that only the principal and depute principal are paid a salary of more than £100,000.”
John Swinney was questioned by the EIS Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images