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Abolition bid defeated;Educational Institute of Scotland's annual general meeting;Conference

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

Neil Munro and David Henderson report from Perth on the Educational Institute of Scotland's annual general meeting. Angry delegates vented their frustration on issues such as pay, conditions, morale and workload.

THE conference narrowly rejected, by 164 votes to 153, any attempt to abolish Catholic schools without the consent of the Church's community.

Delegates then went on to back a call for the ensuing motion to be remitted to the safe-keeping of the executive council on the grounds of its confusion and ambiguity.

Bill Ross, secretary of the Aberdeen local association, led the integrationist wing, saying the union must "come off the fence on this issue" if it truly believed in a multicultural and comprehensive education. He added: "It's not an anti-Catholic motion. I am not the Donald Findlay of the EIS."

Carole Cannon, Edinburgh, headed the argument for consent, saying the issue was one of parental choice. Abolition would lead to school closures and redundancies, she said.

But she irked a number on her own side by her tribute to the success of Catholic schools in promoting attainment among working class pupils.

Alana Ross, Glasgow, spoke for the executive council in opposing the Aberdeen move while having personal sympathy with some of the arguments.

But she said: "We are not here to use the union for our own personal beliefs." The consequences of unilateral integration would be unwelcome headlines and a loss of members, particularly in the west of Scotland.

Gillian Kulwicki, Glasgow, who is also an executive council member, said:

"We can be progressive without being oppressive."

But the general view from the "unilateralists" was summed up by Jimmy Ross, veteran left-winger who was attending his last conference: "Schools should be secular places."

George MacBride, the outgoing education convener, believed the potentially explosive debate had been "sensitive and measured". He, too, called for evolutionary steps which were already being taken in many schools to break down bigotry.

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