Editor's comment

18th June 2010 at 01:00
Ronnie Smith's annual address to the Educational Institute of Scotland's conference was masterly

Ronnie Smith's annual address to the Educational Institute of Scotland's conference was masterly - perhaps the best of the 16 he has delivered as general secretary, arguably in the most difficult circumstances for education. There was enough red meat for the faithful to chew on - "we will not be fall-guys for others' fecklessness". At the same time, he was not afraid to confront his members with home truths - "the politics of the pavement has its place, but it also has its limitations".

This latter point touches on the real issue for the EIS, possibly one of the most challenging in its recent history. Smith himself alluded to it: how does the union respond to the threats facing education funding, including the very existence of some services? As he said, they will have to be "smart and thoughtful" about it. In the passing, it is worth reflecting on the fact that they will also have to do so in a period when retirements will rob the union of its most experienced leaders.

That there will be threats to jobs, services and teachers' conditions is not in doubt. There was perhaps a touch of paranoia in Smith's references to this being used as an excuse to undermine public confidence in teachers. But, as the saying goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. The inconvenient truth is that, however much we might rage against the dying of the light, all public services are going to suffer. The best we can hope for is that the Chancellor's budget next week will have a bit of vision by focusing on tax rises and stimulating business, not just tunnel vision by bearing down purely on public sector costs. In any event, teachers could yet be faced with the unpalatable dilemma of whether they value their services more than their salaries.

Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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