EIS president tells Russell to 'start listening'

Union leader exits with stern warning to politicians who regard teaching as `an easy ride'

Elizabeth Buie

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The outgoing president of Scotland's largest teaching union yesterday warned the education secretary to "start listening" and described teachers' "palpable anger" at employers and politicians who think teaching is "an easy ride".

"Obstinate refusal to listen is not good leadership," Alan Munro said in a pointed message directed at Michael Russell.

Mr Munro told the EIS annual general meeting in Dundee that some employers and politicians would take pleasure in the further erosion of teachers' terms and conditions. Their eyes were "first and foremost on saving money" and not on making the education system better, he said.

EIS members were particularly angry at the "outrageous and unjustified" attack on their pensions emanating from the Westminster coalition government.

Teachers had told the union - and continued to do so - of the "widespread need" for more time and more resources to prepare for the new National 4 and 5 courses, said Mr Munro.

But although this message had been passed on to both the Curriculum for Excellence management board and the education secretary, the latter seemed to take "a long time to begin to listen".

"Even when he starts to acknowledge there is an issue, he does so grudgingly and still insists on sending out the message that he thinks it is only a small number of departments or schools who are in `difficulty' and who will be requiring help," said Mr Munro.

That help had come with a "sinister, threatening tone" and with the promise of "deep audit", he continued.

Mr Munro criticised Mr Russell's "unilateral interference" in the debate on the future of the chartered teacher scheme, cutting across what should have been open and unconstrained negotiations. That action had been "unhelpful in the extreme", he continued.

"To then immediately suggest that a master's-level qualification is desirable for teachers, having just announced the end of the very scheme that was helping us in that direction, is nothing short of illogical and highly insensitive to those on the route to chartered teacher status and to established chartered teachers themselves," Mr Munro said.

"You have dismayed and demoralised some of the best teachers in the system - teachers who have studied hard and at their own expense to improve their knowledge and skills. You have treated them and the negotiating structures with disrespect," he said in a message directed at Mr Russell.

Continuing the attack, he warned: "If you wish to be working with the profession and not against it, as you say you do, and if you have no intentions of imposing unwanted and unsupported changes on an unwilling profession, as you have assured me is your intent, then it is time to listen to us more readily."


On teachers' pay

Teachers' incomes have been seriously depleted and their standard of living is plummeting, outgoing president Alan Munro told the annual general meeting.

"So we will enter into next year's salaries negotiations expecting and demanding a just and restorative pay award. We have earned it."

Original headline: As EIS president bows out, he tells Russell to `start listening'

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Elizabeth Buie

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