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News Release

AGM 2010

EIS President: Teachers must work together on curriculum and fighting cuts

The outgoing President of the Educational Institute of Scotland, Helen Connor, has used her keynote address at today’s EIS Annual General Meeting in Dundee to call for all teachers to work together to fight impending education cutbacks and to ensure that the new Curriculum for Excellence can be a success.

Addressing delegates at today’s meeting in Dundee’s Caird Hall, MS Connor said, "It is hard to believe that it is 9 years since the 21st Century Agreement and all that this entailed. I wish for the moment to concentrate on the inclusion within that agreement of the concept of Collegiality.

"We would all agree that the very minimum this should mean would be that, within schools all staff work together and proper and effective consultation takes place within establishments, true regard is given to the views of others and decisions whilst not always taken collectively are fully understood by all.”

She continued, "I would like to mention though the challenge which the concept of collegiality poses for us and by us I mean both teachers and management alike. There are some headteachers in our schools who play lip-service to the concept of collegiality and equally there are some staff within schools throughout the country who find the idea of having to be involved beyond their own classroom teaching a challenge.

"In the coming years when there is no doubt that working together to save the education service is paramount we need to address this issue.”

Moving on to the threat of budget cuts to education, Ms Connor said, "The proudest moment of my year as President was undoubtedly the EIS ‘Why Must our Children pay?’ rally in March. As someone who cut my teeth in the late 70s with the college occupations and the beginnings of teacher unemployment speaking to a rally of 10000 people was a very emotional and proud moment for me. 

"I know that many, if not all, of you in this hall were indeed on that rally along with many thousands of parents, lecturers, students and children from across Scotland.”

"We must once again question the deeply held belief that public sector cuts are inevitable, and we must ask the following questions:

• Is it more important to spend money on Trident than it is to have smaller class sizes?
• Is it sensible to continue with the freezing of the Council Tax at the expense of supplies of pencils, photocopy paper etc within our schools?
• Should our local authorities really be given the choice of smaller class sizes or free school meals??
• Should the Scottish Government be advertising the rights for children under the ASN Act at the same time as Local Authorities are cutting back on support staff all across the country?
• Should we, as a country be sitting back watching our very well trained probationer teachers having to look for employment
furth of Scotland?”

Ms Connor continued, "I could go on with the challenges which we have to face and the questions which we must be asking and to be fair we must play a part in attempting to answer. Time does not allow me to answer all of them just now but I could offer the Government a first step towards solution and that is: Get rid of the Concordat which is not working and return to ring-fencing of budgets - that way we at least know where the money is going and we are not in the middle of a blame game with Scotland’s young people falling through the middle.”

Moving on to another major issue for Scottish education, the Curriculum for Excellence, Ms Connor said, "Let us be clear colleagues that the EIS remains fully committed to the principles behind the CfE but recognises that there remains confusion in schools, even although we are 6 years down the road. This was clear from the recent survey and although the main difficulties appear to be in the Secondary sector let me get rid of the myth that all is well and up and running in every primary school across the country.”

"But we do recognise that there are real problems within the secondary sector and we have been pursuing this vociferously with the Cabinet Secretary. There is no doubt in my mind that we need time and resources in order to carry this forward and the suspension of inspections is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately this suspension only occurring in the secondary sector perpetuates the myth that all is well in the primary sector, and I’m sure primary colleagues here would have welcomed a similar approach within their schools.”
Ms Connor added, "In the present economic climate without adequate CPD it is also impossible to move forward as quickly as we would wish. We also must get rid of the phrase ‘full implementation by August 2010. This will not happen and believe me the world will not fall apart in schools come August. To quote the Cabinet Secretary himself - the laws of Physics and French Grammar will still be the same.”