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Cold dose of reality;Leading Article;Opinion

It took some courage for the Educational Institute of Scotland leadership to give conference delegates a cold douche of realism about pay and conditions. In eschewing crowd-pleasing abuse of the Millennium Review and the management's intended reforms, the institute's negotiators have prepared the way for a settlement before the end-of-August deadline imposed by the conference.

The other, smaller unions may not yet be living in the real world, or may be cynically hoping to recruit disaffected EIS members, but the majority of teachers are likely to back a deal that puts more money in their pockets. Everyone knows that in other walks of life, longstanding conditions (some of them in effect restrictive practices) have disappeared and teachers cannot expect immunity.

The long drawn out negotiations, punctuated by media spats and election delays, have served to let opinions change and mature. The bases for agreement are now clear although important details still have to be worked out. Assuming that maximum size of composite classes and non-class contact time do not become sticking points, teachers will surely judge that their working lives will not be worse, and they will be paid a bit more.

The employers will have secured valuable flexibility in staffing. The absurdly complex promotion structure will have been simplified. The notion of a teacher as a generic professional rather than, in secondary, as a subject specialist may begin to be accepted, and equality of treatment between primary and secondaries staffs should move a step closer. Most important, the days of treating traditional working practices as sacrosanct will have gone. Tomorrow's pupils should be the beneficiaries.

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