Code of practice enigma

26th January 2001 at 00:00
EIS MEMBERS are currently being blitzed by a barrage of official propaganda in the run-up to the "McCrone deal" plebiscite. We have never been allowed proper debate on the McCrone proposals, either at last year's annual general meeting, or the subsequent special general meeting.

Last Thursday, Malcolm McIver, chief salaries negotiator, tried his best in Edinburgh to talk-out any time for real debate, taking up over an hour to put the case for the deal, leaving those opposed only 10 minutes to speak. Nevertheless, a packed Edinburgh meeting voted against the deal and nominated Myra Armstrong, an opponent of the deal, for national presidential candidate.

The key aspect of the deal is the massive trade-off of conditions - a permanent 22 per cent increase in contractual hours in return for a three-year, four-phase, inflation-eaten, 23.1 per cent pay increase. The official Educational Institute of Scotland line is that teachers will be protected from any further workload increase by a code of practice, which the Scottish Executive, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and headteachers will honour.

There is fat chance of that. EIS negotiators will face exactly the same employers who have treated every EIS concession in the past as a new base from which to attack our conditions. If the wish list drawn up in the code of practice was realisable through negotiation, it would have been achieved when the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee, which had statutory powers, was still in place.

Jack McConnell has already clearly stated; "I do not think that anybody has suggested that because we've increased the working week in the Contract . . .That means everybody should cut the working week if they are above that" (Radio Scotland, January 18). When one primary teacher at the Edinburgh meeting asked how this new "agreement" could protect her against the huge burden of forward planning her headteacher curently imposes, she was advised to inform him, "It's your problem now".

However, the proposed deal has just as bleak implications for the future of education in Scotland. Teachers and pupils are currently buckling under the sheer weight of ill-thought out new iniatives.

Yet few of these have anything to do with addressing the real educational needs of the children we teach. Despite the fact that it is class teachers who have a huge collective expertise and a vested interest in developing practice and reforms which work, we aren't trusted by our employers. Committees are stacked with non-teachers. The consequences of this have been seen over the Higher StillScottish Qualifications Authorty fiasco, for which the current EIS leaders share a responsibility.

EIS leaders have reduced each issue of educational principle to an issue of workload only, abandoning the union's motto - "the promotion of sound learning". The one new contractual demand (our employers well know the difference between contract and code of practice) placed on teachers is the necessity to undergo "personal review" by line managers. This is the policing mechanism by which teachers will be enforced to implement the Government's current "training, training, training" and so-called "social inclusion" agendas. Until classroom teachers gain a significant direct say in all new educational developments, no number of codes of practice or additional classroom assistants will offer teachers or pupils alike any real protection.

The future of the EIS is also at stake. Does it enter into partnership with our employers to impose a market-led, business agenda, becoming a members' financed personnel management service in the process; or does the EIS remain a union advocating a genuinely educational agenda and defending members' pay and conditions?

Allan Armstrong Convener, Scottish Federation of Socialist Teachers, Edinburgh

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