Peacock's pledges fall flat

18th June 2004 at 01:00
David Henderson reports from the EIS conference in Dundee, where the threat of industrial action over pupil numbers marked the only significant victory for the hard left

Repeated assurances from Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, that personal learning plans will not mean extra work were roundly dismissed by a succession of delegates.

The union has not ruled out a boycott of the revised 3-14 assessment plans if teachers discover a vastly increased workload. Most are already certain they will have much more to do.

Helen Connor (right), North Lanarkshire, said she was in no doubt about the effects after trialling two personal learning plans, a prominent feature of the assessment regime. "It took more than one hour per child, that's two hours out of teaching and learning, and that was only doing maths and language," she said.

Ms Connor warned delegates to be wary of any pilot schemes which brought with them extra staffing. "A pilot is a euphemism for phasing in, which becomes part of the norm. When it is fully introduced, schools will lose their extra staff," she said.

Philip Jackson, Angus, said the Scottish Executive had failed to prove the feasibility of the plans.

Arthur Pritchard, Angus, claimed the process would be "the start of a paper empire". There was an over-emphasis on testing, recording and reporting that would detract from teacher time. "We have to get rid of the national assessment bank and national tests that are discredited," he said.

May Ferries, a former union president and acting primary head in Glasgow, said one of the options for revised testing should have been "to throw it in the bin". Teachers were opposed to the Executive's scheme on educational grounds and in terms of how teachers spend their time in the classroom.

Sid Perrie, East Dunbartonshire, pointed out that secondary teachers could be faced with devising personal learning plans for up to 120 pupils in S1.

Two weeks ago, Mr Peacock reiterated his commitment to personal plans at an assessment conference in Glasgow. "My focus is on the words personal and learning and much less on paper-based plans. I see personal learning planning as a process, not a bureaucratic exercise. It is one of the ways of helping narrow the attainment gap and help get the best out of each pupil," he said.

The minister went on: "Personal learning plans need not be lengthy, bureaucratic forms to be completed by teachers. What I want to see is schools creating the right climate for conversations with pupils about their learning, which can then be captured in whatever way suits learners and teachers best.

"I have no plans to rush out centrally devised forms to schools for teachers to fill in. I want to see good professional practice develop," the Education Minister said.

He is likely to announce his response to the consultation on assessment, testing and reporting in the autumn.

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