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Hands off, Smith tells councils

A warning to the new education authorities against adopting an "intrusive, hands-on" approach to school management was given today (Friday) by the general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Speaking at a conference in Crieff on the future of local government under a Scottish parliament, Ronnie Smith said the fact that the 32 incoming councils would be closer to their electorates was no excuse for interference.

Mr Smith stated: "An unwelcome development in recent years has been the attempt by central government, sometimes with the assistance of education authorities, to dictate in a highly dirigiste fashion what and how teachers are to teach, assess and report.

"At times they have sailed dangerously close to a tightly defined national curriculum with centrally imposed national testing in the primary stages and prescribed reporting formats for all pupils."

Mr Smith, who said his views were not necessarily those of the EIS, went on to suggest that "this curtailment of opportunities for teachers and schools to develop and exercise professional independence, if unchecked, may contribute to a relative deskilling of the profession and result in uncritical delivery of educational programmes developed elsewhere. Ultimately this could constrain our capacity to innovate."

The EIS general secretary also called for a Scottish parliament to review educational quangos to ensure that teachers were represented on them.

But Mr Smith warned that a Scottish parliament would achieve little if it did not address the legacy of decaying school buildings, rising class sizes and teachers' relative wage decline.

He added: "Constitutional change will count for nothing if it is accompanied by a parsimonious approach. That said, resources will always be limited so there will always be a need to devise a robust, open and inclusive means of determining allocation of these resources among the many competing claimants. "

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