EIS wants schools to stay with councils

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
SCHOOLS SHOULD continue to be run by local authorities in the interests of joined-up government once the Scottish parliament is established, the Educational Institute of Scotland has stated in its pre-election manifesto for education, which asks the political parties to endorse 40 commitments.

Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, insisted that education is best run as it is, despite alternatives proposed in Scotland and south of the border.

Mr Smith said: "You cannot look at education in isolation. The risk of detaching education from local government and placing it in an arm's length board or something similar would make it very difficult to secure the joint working and integration that is necessary if education is to play its part in social advance. Initiatives like the pilot new community schools would face much greater difficulty if education had been lopped off or pulled out of local government.

"We very firmly believe education should be located in the local authority set-up rather than being pulled away."

The union wants to strengthen councils' role by giving them powers to control the pace of educational change through development plans at national, local and school level.

The EIS has underlined its commitment to involving teachers and lecturers in decision-making and ending the "top-down centralism" that it claims has characterised recent policy development, dominated by an English agenda. Applying business and commercial yardsticks to education had failed.

Mr Smith said: "At its worst, translating such approaches to the context of Scottish schools means setting criteria to measure achievement which are arbitrary, without credibility and which lead to a distortion in the work of schools, teachers and pupils. The culture which emerges is one of blame and punishment."

The union is particularly critical of target-setting, which it says is educationally flawed. Mr Smith was a member of the ministerial task group on standards that set up the targets but maintains his views and that of others were ignored.

Mr Smith said: "It is still to be demonstrated that there is a particular model of target-setting that is sustainable. It is perfectly reasonable for individual pupils in negotiation with their teachers to work out reasonable targetsbut if the obsession is with rolling up things globally to make spurious comparisons between institutions, it is difficult to see how target-setting can be established."

The EIS calls, unsurprisingly, for more investment in education but declines to back extra taxes. Cuts in class sizes would make the biggest difference to education, it believes. Asked whether the cavalry, in the shape of the current Government, was about to rescue FE, Mr Smith replied:

"A horse is on its way."

Leader, page 12.

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