Union targets Forsyth's seat

The Educational Institute of Scotland took the opening of its election campaign last week to the Scottish Secretary's Stirling constituency and contrasted Michael Forsyth's confrontational approach with the consensus needed in education.

Ian McCalman, the union's vice-president, said: "There has been a clear and persistent consensus in Scotland that educational policies developed south of the border to fit a Conservative agenda do nothing to benefit Scottish schools and Scottish young people. First and foremost, teachers and parents in Scotland will look for openness and honesty, qualities so sorely lacking over the past period."

Nursery vouchers were one example of Mr Forsyth ignoring public opinion. "He has gone ahead and imposed his scheme in the face of opposition of teachers, parents' organisations, local councils and indeed prominent members of his own party," Mr McCalman stated. Almost Pounds 1 million of public money had been spent trying to persuade parents to take up the vouchers.

"Parents throughout the country will recognise the dishonesty of this politically motivated campaign and will reject such bribery with the contempt it deserves. It is difficult to recall an instance of education being so blatantly manipulated for political ends."

The Conservatives' flagship policy had been "holed below the water" after the Tory-dominated Commons Education Select Committee "comprehensively rejected the voucher policy as restricting rather than enhancing pre-five educational provision".

Mr McCalman said Mr Forsyth had ignored consultation over national testing of pupils, opting out, compulsory appraisal of teachers and the assisted places scheme, putting "Tory party dogma before the interests of Scottish schools and pupils". Teachers had failed to be involved in the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum and the new Scottish Qualifications Authority. It was an "arrogant rejection of professional opinion".

He also condemned Mr Forsyth for his "persistent tendency to arrogate the objectives of quality and standards to himself and to the Tory party". But his attacks on the funding of education belied his aims. The profession had lost 1,000 jobs last year and more were at risk.

Mr McCalman looked forward to a Scottish parliament that would safeguard the ethos and identity of the comprehensive system. A development plan at national level was crucial to match available resources to the pace of change.

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