EIS warns Labour policy has 'no friends'

12th April 1996 at 01:00
Manifesto proposals condemnedas hypocritical and anti-teacher. Proposals to reform schools and raise educational standards under a Labour government have taken a "comprehensive pounding" from the Educational Institute of Scotland's executive council.

The meeting last week narrowly defeated a condemnatory left-wing motion but Labour's education manifesto, drafted by Helen Liddell, had "no friends", according to insiders.

The union is anxious to maintain relationships with Labour ahead of a general election, however. and will take part in consultations on the controversial manifesto. Mrs Liddle concedes that Every Child is Special: A Compact for Scotland's Future may have to be amended.

However, Willie Hart, a past president of the EIS, dubbed the Monklands East MP "Mrs Blunkett". Union leaders are particularly upset with the anti-teacher messages similar to those in the policy document south of the border and championed by David Blunkett, the shadow Education Secretary.

Left-wingers on the EIS council, led by Maureen Watson, North Lanarkshire, described Mrs Liddell's document as "hypocritical".

The motion before the council argued: "It is not good enough to talk of improving teachers' performance at the same time as Labour authorities are increasing class sizes, continuing to implement cuts in funding, closing schools without the pretence of educational justification, refusing to pay teachers realistic pay increases and continually talking about bad teachers in the press as though this was the main problem facing Scottish education. "

The motion was defeated by 31-24 votes.

Mrs Liddell's recent claim that more time was spent fitting children's shoes than discussing educational progress drew the fire of John Cairney, the left-wing Glasgow secondary teacher. Shop assistants did not have to face 33 pupils who did not want to put their feet into the shoes in the first place, Mr Cairney said.

In an article to be published in next week's TES Scotland, Fred Forrester, the EIS's depute general secretary, writing in a personal capacity, will underline teachers' concern that Labour's policy is "subjected to scrutiny and amendment" at national level to avoid conflict between English and Scottish policy.

Mr Forrester's most serious criticisms relate to the "now familiar English rhetoric of failing schools and failing teachers". Mr Forrester adds: "Research in Scotland gives no credibility to the concept of the failing school. A study by Grampian Region and the Centre for Educational Sociology showed that the achievements of schools were almost entirely a reflection of the socio-economic status of their pupil populations.

"It is really surprising that a Scottish Labour Party paper has nothing to say about the relationship between academic achievement and family status, which is now regarded by educationists as perhaps the principal issue in the Scottish educational field."

Mr Forrester takes Labour to task over its "compact" with students which he describes as "little more than an extended sound bite". He argues the sting in the tail is likely to be the assessment of children shortly after they enter primary in a form of national testing.

Plans for parent advocates, school board reform, more rigorous homework and headteacher training also come under attack.

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