The EIS expects;Leading Article;Opinion

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
THE EDUCATIONAL Institute of Scotland has been around for a century and a half. It has a right to lecture the nascent parliament, as it does in its manifesto (page six). Do not get embroiled in English controversies, prospective MSPs are enjoined.

Creating a crisis in Scottish education on the basis of troubles in parts of England has been a constant irritant. When elements of the media have joined the hunt for scapegoats, irritation has turned to anger. Supposed parental discontent with local authority education, breast beating over falling standards, claims that teachers have abandoned the basics for fashionable frills - none of these concerns has much relevance. The EIS suggests that they should be corralled south of the Cheviots.

That will prove easier said than done. The Assembly Hall executive assuming power on July 1 will find that a tough approach by Westminster politicians - say, over school standards - continues to provoke a Scottish response, why not here?

The EIS has a wish list, as do the political parties. The union's manifesto does not mire itself in money matters, whereas the parties must always state how extra resources would be paid for. The executive in Edinburgh will be able to make decisions at the margin, and the significance for schools in that discretion should not be underestimated. Yet English influence, as the EIS would describe it, is inescapable.

Even with political "independence" it would be there. Nor is it all to be decried. Avoiding insularity or self-satisfaction will be crucial, and the EIS might encourage MSPs to strike a more questioning note about the prospects for Scottish schools, colleges and universities.

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