Wary reaction from unions

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Neil Munro and Gillian Macdonald report on what the Education Minister claims is 'the most comprehensive modernisation in our schools for a generation'

The Educational Institute of Scotland gave a highly conditional response to the reforms. Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, said: "It will not be sufficient just to will a process of change."

Mr Smith warned that lessons had to be learnt from the "unhappy recent memories" of attempts to introduce the 5-14 and Higher Still changes, with not enough resources and too little involvement of class teachers.

He said that the union would be monitoring developments to ensure the Education Minister's reassurance about involving the profession was realised.

But he noted that staff shortages are all too apparent in some areas and it is therefore "hard to see how there will be space and time in many schools to bring about the changes which the minister has set out". The process of change could also be hampered by "the rising tide of pupil indiscipline".

Mr Smith welcomed the curriculum and assessment plans, particularly the latter, but cautioned that the need to introduce greater flexibility into the curriculum should not lead to a "free-for-all" that would see enthusiasts in local authorities adding "pet projects and perceived locally important initiatives" The Professional Association of Teachers described its attitude as one of "cautious welcome", highlighting personal learning plans (PLPs) as having potential for adding to teachers' workload, another EIS concern.

The Headteachers' Association of Scotland welcomed the more central role planned for its members and called on local authorities to embrace the changes "with enthusiasm and alacrity".

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities hinted at its concerns that councils might be marginalised in line with the Education Minister's desire that they become "facilitators" for schools.

Councils are "the cornerstone in managing and delivering school education", Ewan Aitken, Cosla's education spokesperson, commented.

The Tories said real choice meant that power should be in the hands of parents, while the SNP awarded the revolution "a Higher in hyperbole".

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