Teachers 'pushed to the edge' by Tories

28th February 1997 at 00:00
The "gung-ho" approach of ministers in imposing assessment and curriculum changes on teachers does not work, the Educational Institute of Scotland asserted this week in the union's build-up to the general election.

A leaflet claimed that ministers had "misused" the Inspectorate in advocating setting in the first two years of secondary and called for a more independent role for HMIs.

Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, said the EIS had been "pushed to the edge and ignored" by the Scottish Office in appointments to key committees such as the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum.

Mr Smith said teachers worked at their best when their views were valued and not denigrated. He hoped a Scottish parliament would be more "open, inclusive and participatory" and looked forward to a post-election period in which the exclusion of teachers from policy-making was ended.

He stated: "We have to move away from the system of handing down on high changes to assessment and curriculum. This kind of gung-ho approach does not work. The people most directly involved should be given a due place and their voice should be heard."

Mr Smith said the EIS had submitted 10 names for the SQA and none had been selected by the Secretary of State, whose influence he detected. Only headteachers and senior managers in further education colleges had been chosen. The curriculum council had just two classroom teachers out of 20 on its main committee.

"The Secretary of State is promoting the involvement of people with no connection to education at all in his proposed Advisory Council on Education, " he warned.

The union also called for an Inspectorate less associated with current ministerial policies. Mr Smith admitted HMIs had a difficult role but it had been compromised by the recent Government policy supporting the end of mixed-ability teaching in the first two years of secondary school.

Mr Smith stated: "It is very important that the Inspectorate is independent and seen to be independent whatever Government is in power. We do not want to see them dragged down the role of OFSTED south of the border which is negative and destructive." HMIs had to be less judgmental and more supportive of teachers.

The union's leaflet, the fifth in the series Education and the Wider Community, lists eight key commitments it is seeking from parties in the election. Top of the pile is a Scottish parliament, followed by an end to opting out. Other priorities are consultation for teachers, funding for councils, an independent HMI, statutory education committees and continued negotiating rights at national and local level.

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