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Leaders lose assessment row;Educational Institute of Scotland's annual general meeting;Conference

HIGHER STILL

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.

FESTERING resentment at the ditched boycott of Higher Still and the way the union concluded a deal with the Government and the local authorities led to the only significant defeat for the leadership.

Delegates called on negotiators to seek the earliest possible removal of internal assessment in Higher Still on a vote of 159 to 122.

Larry Flannigan, from Glasgow, said it was a workload issue as end-of-unit assessment placed more stress on teachers to administer and mark papers.

"It's an elaborate safety net for Scottish Qualification Authority external assessment procedures," he said. He was not opposing internal assessment in principle but in the context of Higher Still. Jean Miller, Glasgow, said:

"We suffer to appease the old Scotvec. It's not about students but about bureaucracy."

George MacBride, out-going education convener, replied that they were placing themselves unwittingly in the same camp as right-wing think-tanks who advocated "sitting down on a summer's day and taking a written exam".

Norma Watson, in-coming education convener, added that "a simple end of course examination is a blunt instrument and we all know about the bad exam day." Conference, however, preferred to register its disapproval.

As forecast, delegates condemned Her Majesty's Inspectorate for losing its independence by driving the Government's political agenda. In one of his most vituperative comments ever at conference, Mr MacBride - normally a moderate and cerebral figurehead - labelled HMI as an organisation marked by "arrogance and intellectual and moral dishonesty".

The inspectorate lacked transparency in the way it gathered evidence and how it reached conclusions. It refused to enter into genuine debate and failed to celebrate the learning that goes on in schools or the joy and pleasure of children. "It's extremely sad for individual HMIs," Mr MacBride said.

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