Led by the 'donkeys'

5th May 2006 at 01:00
At the risk of prolonging what might be seen by some as something of a "storm in a teacup", your report on April 21 referring to the "union split"

at the STUC conference did raise questions about important issues for teachers and their representation at the STUC.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association delegation had not taken a prior position on the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers motion about the training of teachers to keep order in class, or on the Educational Institute of Scotland's amendment. Instead, we listened to the arguments put forward by our colleagues.

As your report suggests, the motion was flawed by its use of the catch-all term "antisocial behaviour". However, we decided to support it after hearing the arguments put forward in the EIS amendment.

It appeared to us that these arguments, which David Henderson reports accurately, could equally imply support for a "no exclusion" policy in Scottish schools. It was agreed therefore that I should speak to this point.

However, the STUC president broke with previous practice and declined to take contributions from the floor. The motion was remitted to the same STUC's general council on which the EIS is represented by its general secretary.

At the conclusion of the debate, I spoke to a member of the EIS delegation, in fact a former EIS president. I stated that his union's position was a shameful one since it was contrary to the interests of their members, nor would it help a single excluded pupil gain the social or educational support she or he required.

The response I received was, and I quote verbatim: "You're an arsehole.

You're an arsehole. All you can do is talk."

In one sense, the reply was an appropriate one. It is typical of the abuse chalkface EIS members receive from the very pupils for whom their representatives now seek to provide "improved alternative provision", rather than "zero tolerance".

The above is an accurate and factual account and is submitted with some regret. I have great regard for colleagues in my school who are EIS members and for their union representatives in West Lothian.

However, the arrogance shown by their STUC delegates on this occasion is all too typical of a culture among some EIS activists. That culture places the "political" interests of the trade union and its leadership cadre above the interests of the membership.

On this occasion and regrettably, the phrase "lions led by donkeys" comes to mind.

Peter Wright

District secretary

West Lothian SSTA

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