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40 COMMITMENTS FOR A SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT - EIS LAUNCHES MANIFESTO

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The EIS has launched its Manifesto for education in a new Scottish parliament. EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith s...
The EIS has launched its Manifesto for education in a new Scottish parliament. EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith said: 'The coming elections on 6 May mark a vital turning point for education in Scotland. As an organisation, the EIS is preparing to meet that challenge and take full advantage of the opportunities presented both for education and for EIS involvement in work with the parliament.' Mr Smith stressed the 'key role' which the EIS had played over many years in the campaign for the setting up of the parliament.

The Manifesto sets out 40 'commitments', covering all areas of education, which Mr Smith described as 'an opportunity for debate as well as a direct challenge to every candidate of every political party standing in the election.' Mr Smith also confirmed that the EIS would not be advising members either to vote for (or against) any political party.

Mr Smith said that the parliament 'takes over at a time of substantial change at all levels of education'. He added 'Many of the changes are positive, and are reflected in the widening opportunities now available to young people and in rising standards of attainment in educational establishments at all levels. In the Manifesto the EIS celebrates these many positive developments and indicate something of the work of schools and colleges, teachers and lecturers, pupils and students in 1999'.

Mr Smith continued by saying that there is 'unfortunately another side to the story'. He said 'Recent years have seen the development in England of new approaches to education and educational change which to a significant extent have informed government thinking in Scotland as well. These approaches at their heart reflect changes in management practices in business and industry. When translated to the context of schools and education, it is claimed that such approaches will drive up standards and improve the performance of schools, pupils and teachers. But schools are not businesses and school work and exam performance cannot be equated with commercial and business outcomes. In reality, the heavy-handed attempt to apply such approaches to schools and colleges has often proved to be inimical to real innovation, to improving the quality of individual pupil's work and to meeting the real needs of children, educational establishments and communities'.

Mr Smith said that such approaches 'fail to acknowledge the very real differences in Scottish education.' He continued 'At its worst, translating such approaches to change to the context of Scottish schools means setting criteria to measure achievement which are arbitrary, without credibility and which lead to a distortion in the work of schools, teachers and pupils alike. The culture which emerges is one of blame and punishment rather than praise and encouragement. It means setting targets which ignore both the many changing factors which determine how pupils learn and develop and the progress and needs of individual pupils and schools. Such approaches have little to do with professionalism, imagination and genuine innovation. They also ignore many of the realities of society in 1999 - and in particular the number of people who through their economic and social circumstances do not have the opportunity to benefit from all that modern day society has to offer, including education. The rhetoric which underlies such approaches may be one of raising standards and improving quality; the risk is of achieving the exact opposite'

The 40 commitments set out in the EIS Manifesto cover all areas of education and focuses on pupils, schools, parents, teachers, local authority councils, students in schools and colleges and also FE colleges and universities.

Mr Smith said: 'The EIS focus in our Manifesto is very clearly on those who stand to benefit from education - young people themselves and those who throughout their lives seek to play a greater part in a better educated, better trained and better informed society.' He went on to call on all political parties to ensure that, 'like the EIS the interests of young people and students would be the priority, rather than party ideology or agendas which come from outwith Scotland.'

Mr Smith continued: 'The EIS, and the many in education who share our aims, believe that a real opportunity exists today for a new Parliament to draw a line under approaches which cannot well serve our schools and communities. We will argue forcefully for policies which meet the needs of young people and educational establishments and, crucially, which provide the resources which must support all change. We believe also that the new parliament offers opportunities for all involved in education, whether as teachers, lecturers, parents, pupils or students, to take part in the process of change in ways which have been denied us all too often in the past and to take forward the process of innovation and change in our schools, our colleges and our universities'.

SUMMARY

40 COMMITMENTS FOR A SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

The new Scottish parliament must:

ensure that teachers, lecturers and parents, together with school, college and university students are fully and directly involved as part of the decision-making processes within the new parliament in matters which affect their work and involvement within education. In a devolved Scotland, the new parliament must mean a new process of democracy and not merely an Edinburgh-based replica of Westminster.

THE PUPIL

The new Scottish parliament must:

-take forward the commitment of Westminster government to ensuring that class sizes are cut at all levels of education, and in particular the early years, where the opportunity for each child to spend time with the teacher is of crucial importance.

-support the work of special schools, and where policies on integration of special needs pupils are being developed, ensure that all involved are fully consulted and the resources provided to support the implementation of the policies.

-redress the resultsof years of underspending in the area of specialist education provision.

-ensure that all children have the right to be taught in schools of which they, their parents and communities can feel proud, with access to all the materials they need to benefit fully from the school.

-in partnership with government and the local authorities, address the fundamental social factors which mean that so many people, children and adults, are, through no fault of their own, excluded from playing the fullest part in modern society, including work and education. The parliament should also develop policies which ensure equality of all children, regardless of race or social background.

-give proper consideration to children from geographically remote and scattered communities so that they are in no way disadvantaged compared with their peers from urban communities.

-encourage closer links between schools and the communities they serve through developing new initiatives based on initiatives already underway in many communities and with the full involvement of teachers and schools in the process.

-allow the same access to pupils with disabilities as to the able bodied and challenge the stereotypes too common in the media and in wider society on gender and sexuality.

-provide nursery education to all children from the age of three whose parents wish it.

-ensure that a devolved Scotland and the work of the parliament bring direct benefit to the curriculum in educational establishments at all levels. This will in part be achieved through the enhanced use of information technology which will bring the parliament alive to pupils in their studies and allow them to interact with the parliament and parliamentary processes themselves.

THE SCHOOL

The new Scottish parliament must:

-do all it can to provide the means for schools to improve quality, but it should review fundamentally whether target setting and comparisons of schools, however sophisticated, are the best way of achieving this.

-pursue the case already made by the teaching unions and COSLA together as part of the Millennium Review for a fundamental review of education spending. Such a review would seek to ensure that funding is provided equitably and is properly targeted towards those areas where it is needed most.

-determine how it will support schools and seek to enhance quality in education and not seek to denigrate and undermine the work of schools.

-review in detail current arrangements which allow parents to choose the school which their child attends, with a view to achieving greater social and educational equity, and to giving greater powers to local councils to plan the use of resources for educational provision within their own area.

THE TEACHER

The new Scottish parliament must:

-ensure that never again will change occur without the full involvement of teachers and in the absence of resources - circumstances which have marked so many of the stages of implementation of, for example, the 5-14programme and Higher Still.

-together with local councils, ensure that schools are provided with the mechanisms to reduce the burdens of bureaucracy and administration in order to ensure that the central functions of teaching the learning are the priorities of all schools.

-encourage councils to end the abuse of temporary contracts, to appoint more teachers on a permanent basis and only to make use of temporary contracts in very exceptional circumstances.

-improve the arrangements on teacher supply so that an adequate number of well qualified graduates are trained to meet the specific demands of schools in all sectors.

-ensure that teachers are able to work in an environment where they feel safe and secure. Measurers should be put in place to protect teachers from abuse and assault from whatever source.

-provide support and advice to teachers as and when they are needed throughout their career, and also ensure a route out of teaching for teachers who, for whatever reason, are unlikely to meet again the high standards expected of them. In this the GTC should have an expanded role to play as the body which can assure the standard of professionalism within teaching.

THE PARENT

The new Scottish parliament must:

-encourage and build on the close links which have developed between most schools and most parents and between the representatives of parents and teachers at all levels, which have been a crucial element in ensuring quality in education in this country.

-endorse the work of School Boards, while not imposing new burdens on them. Also, the new parliament should endorse and encourage the work of Parent Teacher Associations whose work is all too often unrecognised and underestimated.

THE COUNCIL

The new Scottish parliament must:

-ensure there is put in place within each council area a development plan to articulate with an equivalent plan at a Scottish parliamentary level and also with school development plans already being put in place.

-recognise the need for transparency, fairness and objectivity in the allocation of government funding to councils. There is also a need to distinguish clearly between the responsibilities of local government and those of central government.

-ensure that councils, as well as planning the delivery of national initiatives, should have the power to initiate developments themselves according to availability of resources and following a full process of consultation.

-review in detail current arrangements which allow parents to choose the school which their child attends, with a view to achieving greater social and educational equity, and to giving greater powers to local councils to plan the use of resources for educational provision within their own area.

-reassert the role and function of the SJNC, and resist suggestions that its powers should be diluted or removed. In this, the parliament should help provide a level of funding to ensure that teachers are paid a level of salary properly commensurate with their level of promotion and responsibilities.

FURTHER AND HIGHER EDUCATION

The new Scottish parliament must:

-take forward those parts of the Dearing and Garrick reports which encourage further access of young people to further and higher education.

-encourage further access for students from socially deprived and disadvantaged sections of society and students in geographically remote areas.

-undertake a total review of the current funding arrangements for students in further and higher education in order to ensure that no potentially qualified student is excluded from pursuing a course of study because of financial circumstances.

-tackle student poverty as a priority so that every student is entitled to a basic standard of living. This will mean an urgent review of the impact of the burden of loans and fees for individual students.

-undertake a total review of funding in post-16 education to allow the sector to meet properly the challenges of expansion in the universities and the new developing structures.

-create collective national bargaining for salaries and conditions of service for staff in the higher education sector.

-establish a national negotiating forum on further education which is designed to set national standards for lecturers' pay and conditions, including fair levels of pay, limitations on and a fair distribution of teaching hours and adequate time for tasks other than teaching.

-do all it can to foster partnerships between FE and HE and to strengthen the links between schools and the F & HE sectors and also between the F & HE sectors and the wider communities throughout Scotland which they serve.

-as a priority, provide an immediate cash injection to eradicate deficit budgets in FE colleges.

-ensure a strategic framework for the FE sector, designed to promote inter-college co-ordination, to maximise access to all courses without needless competition between colleges and to encompass the entire range of issues faced by FE colleges.

-attract further education college board members who are democratically elected and fully accountable to the local community which they serve, representing, for example, all sides of business and industry.

-not undermine the Scottish four year honours degree in any way by the promotion of the ordinary degree. The Scottish four year honours degree is internationally recognised and its reputation must be maintained and enhanced.

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