The roll-out of Curriculum for Excellence faces delay after delegates voted by a large majority to "work to contract" on its implementation.
The main council of the EIS will now investigate and consider how its members can carry out an effective "work to rule" until they feel adequate resources are available to deliver the curriculum reforms.
A motion to organise a boycott of CfE was defeated, with the union's education convener, Larry Flanagan, arguing such a tactic was unworkable and potentially divisive. "What do you boycott? Assessment Is For Learning? Do we take our representatives off the SQA development groups, thereby losing influence over directing the nature of the qualifications?" asked Mr Flanagan.
Pro-boycott delegates argued that the money was not there.
Brian McGovern, from Renfrewshire, said: "This is the last chance saloon in terms of this union. This is injurious to the health of Scottish education. It is ill-timed, ill-conceived and under-funded. If you miss this point, there is no going back."
But a boycott of CfE would mean that teachers would have to stop everything they were doing in it, said Susan Quinn, of Glasgow local association. "A work to contract permits those who have been taking a sensible approach to implementation to continue forward," she said.
Delegates passed a motion calling for a campaign for a year's delay in the implementation timetable.
Charlie McKinnon, from Glasgow, said the CfE "experiences and outcomes" were at times vague, woolly and impenetrable. It was "astonishing", he added, that at this late stage, the Education Secretary, Michael Russell, had asked for much of the guidelines to be rewritten.
Subject specialist groups were not due to meet until after the summer holidays, while the pound;3 million of government funding earmarked to support CfE was not ring-fenced.
The National Assessment Resources would not arrive until September, yet teachers were expected to start delivery of CfE with no idea of what the final qualifications were going to look like, he said.
"It's like the World Cup starting but the rules have not been worked out, so they make them up as they go along. I don't want a posse of HMIE inspectors sitting beside me, telling me what to do. I want more time, training and resources. HMIE's time would be better spent lobbying for this with Mike Russell," he added.
- As the EIS stepped back from the brink of a boycott over CfE, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association announced it was holding an indicative ballot on the same issue over the next two weeks. General secretary Ann Ballinger said the executive committee's concerns on a number of issues had not been met by Mr Russell.
Also from the EIS conference:
Teachers on alert for attacks against them
Vote to ballot for one-day strike