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EIS warns off the snoopers

The Educational Institute of Scotland has delivered a stern reminder that the pursuit of continuous professional development (CPD) must not degenerate into "check-list" visits to classrooms.

In a major paper on teacher professionalism which has been approved by the union's executive council, the EIS says CPD must be based on a "mutually respectful relationship".

The EIS is particularly wary of classroom monitoring as a way of checking teacher performance or amassing evidence for potential disciplinary action. It has already had a number of confrontations over the issue with some schools and authorities.

The EIS statement says: "Classroom observation should take place within the context of learning and teaching in the classroom and should be for no other purpose. Any arrangement for a visit should be with the agreement of the classroom teacher and should involve a general process of interaction within the classroom involving both teachers present.

"Sitting with a check-list at the back or front of the classroom of a fully registered teacher is not appropriate."

The union also wants classroom visits to be distinct not just from disciplinary issues but also from staff development and career review. It gave notice that these will be key matters for the local negotiating machinery which will be set up following the post-McCrone settlement.

Any hope councils had, however, of local bargaining leading to more flexible working looks distinctly remote if the EI statement is any guide. It insists there must be agreement on what the outcome of classroom observations should be and adds: "Where no local agreement exists, the EIS school representative should advise the local association secretary immediately of any intention by school management to introduce classroom observation."

The union acknowledges that "teacher autonomy cannot be absolute". If teachers are to be supported by senior staff, this may involve access to their classrooms. But the union repeats that "visits should be strictly within the context of learning and teaching and the overall welfare of the school and pupils". This should then lead to later discussion of general issues with the teaching staff.

The statement also calls for teachers to be allowed to decide on priorities for their work and plan the pace of change in the classroom. It says teachers are happy to sign up to the national priorities set out last year but implementation at school level will require agreement.

Meanwhile the EIS is going into the staff development business itself in a unique link with Paisley University to set up courses for members, beginning with a postgraduate certificate in workplace organisation delivered largely via the Internet.

MIke Donnelly, dean of Paisley's business school, said the venture was "the most innovative and exciting development" it had been involved in and would be a major contribution to lifelong learning for teachers.

Leader, page 16

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