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KEY ROLE FOR EDUCATION IN NEW PARLIAMENT, SAYS EIS

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Education will have a key role in the soon-to-be-established Socttish Parliament, said Educational Institute of Sco...
Education will have a key role in the soon-to-be-established Socttish Parliament, said Educational Institute of Scotland president Ian McCalman in a speech at the institute's 150th anniversary dinner on September 19.

In a transcript of the speech he says 'the EIS is first and foremost a teacher trade union. It exists to defend and enhance the salaries and conditions of those Scottish teachers and lecturers who are its members.

As a professional association also, the EIS has, from its inception, seen itself as participating in the activity of ensuring that the standards of the Scottish teaching profession are sustained and improved. Hence our close interest and involvment in teacher education, entry to the profession, probation and the processes of staff development and career review.

The EIS has a major contribution to make to the debates on the development of the Scottish education system. We have always set high store upon our involvement in discussions on matters pertaining to curriculum, assessment and other issues relevant to the improvement of young people's educational experience. In doing so, we have benefited from and hopefully contributed to discussions involving organisations such as the Scottish Council for Research in Education and the Scottish Consultative Committee on the Curriculum.

The EIS is also a contributor to wider debates and ventures pertaining to the health of the body politic. We have clear responsibilities in the broader cultural, social and political arena and these have grown over the years.We regularly sponsor events, contributing on an annual basis one per cent of our members' dues to cultural activities. In the international arena we have regularly supported efforts to enhance education provision in countries whose need is greater than ours and we have also given moral and material assistance where educational provision and teachers' rights are under threat. Here again we commit one per cent of our members' dues each year to that purpose.

As a union and professional association we have contributed much. But we should be ever aware of the twin dangers of complacency and arrogance. We are part of a point, collective endeavour and in that we have many valued partners. We have partners in the trade union movement and beyond whose collaboration we hold in esteem. We work closely with TUC and STUC, with local councils and directorates, the parent organisations, political parties, the Scottish Qualifiications Authority (SQA), COSLA, Her Majesty's Inspectorate and not least the Socttish Office together with SOEID. These bodies and others concerned with the Scottish educational system do not coexist in some cosy consensus but are frequently engaged in healthy and vigorous debate as to the best way forward for Scottish education.

We also hold in high regard our relationship with the international teachers' trade union movement through Education International and the European Trade Union Committee for Education.

Last week a historic decision was taken on the setting up of a Parliament in Scotland. This decision is an exhilarating and liberating experience to all of us who have devoted most of our political energies through many years to its establishment. We believe that it creates the opportunity to move beyond the Westminster model of representative democracy. The door is open to devising a system of government in Scotland which is both representative and participatory. The Socttish Parliament will provide the focus for debate on the key issues confronting our society, including education, Such a debate can draw upon the distinctive traditions and strengths of Scottish education whilst at the same time enriching this with the experiences gleaned from Europe and the wider international scene.

This afternoon the EIS Executive Council approved an important policy paper on the role education must play within the context of the Scottish Parliament. The paper spells out key issues for the future and underlines the major contribution which we as teachers and we as a union must play at this important stage in our developing history.

Crucial to the success of Scottish education in the coming years is the availability of adequate funding to make progress meaningful. There is a curious notion abroad that somehow it is possible to raise standards in eduation without providing the commensurate levels of investment. I can think of no aspect of society where such a concept is given credence, other than in unregulated sweat shops. Sustained

and overal improvements in quality require continued and adequate levels of investment. Without this there can be no genuine education development.

The bulk of such funding will continue to come from a Scottish Parliament. Certainly there is a strong case for allowing local councils to raise a larger proportion of their funding than is currently the case. In the early days of that parliament a priority must be a review of local government spending so as to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources between different councils than is presently the case, with a view to establishing genuine equity in education and promoting opportunities for all our young people.

Similar arguments must also apply in relation to salaries and conditions of service. One of the great stabilising factors in the Scottish educational system is that salaries and key conditions of service, such as class sizes and the length of the working day and year, are negotiated at a national level through the SJNC. Within the context of the Scottish Parliament it is essential that such matters continue to be negotiated at national level. there is a need for stronger guidelines on staffing and protecting promoted post structures in order to meet the needs of our schools at the start of the new millennium.

Local councils must remain the key enablers and providers of the service. We welcome the establishment of the Parliament as providing the opportunity for estalishing a new partnership between central and local government, thus both fostering mutual respect and recognition of their respective roles in sustaining and enhancing education.

Within the context of a Scottish Parliament the educational system of this country must be regarded as a continuum stretching from nursery to further and higher education, training and adult education. In particular, we welcome the fact that Further and Higher Education are to be under the aegis of the Scottish Parliament. In this way we can ensure a meaningful articulation of both types of provision and of providing a reasonable degree of equity in funding arrangements.

One of the successes of recent years has been the way in which the partnerships between parents and teachers in Scotland has developed, both at a national level and in schools up and down the country through school boards and other areas of involvement. The previous government thought this could sever the link between parents and teachers. This proved a misconception.

A further misconception is to fuse together parental choice of school with the need to ensure that parents are adequately consulted as to their child's education. The EIS is a firm advocate of the latter but we do not believe that the former is somehow an absolute which stands above all other educational considerations. Parental choice cannot become a shibboleth beyond scrutiny. Where an unrestrained consumerist view of education produces overall deleterious effects, the issue has to be re-examined and, where necessary, legislative changes made so as to reassert the role of the local authorities in balancing parental choice with social and educational equity.

Comprehensive education is a success story in Scotland. It is the best guarantor of higher standards in education and is at the same time the surest foundation of a more egalitarian and therefore a more just society.

It is a system which has both raised standards in our schools and has simultaneously contributed to a narrowing of social class differences. The proportion of working class young people going to university in the mid-1990s is about twice as great as the proportion of young people as a whole getting to universities in the 1950s. Of course much remains to be done but that progress is no mean achievement in the context of the socially divisive governmental policies of the past 18 years.

In 1997 we come full circle. Our founders in 1847 spoke of the need to 'promote sound learning' across all parts of Scotland. We are equally clear today as to that paramount need. But as teachers and representatives we know that it is not a task we can carry out on our own. In recent years we have made much of the tripartite partnership in education consisting of teachers, parents and local authorities. Your words this evening, Secretary of State, give us renewed hope that we can start to talk of a four-way partnership and that this partnership now includes government not only at Westminster but in Edinburgh too.

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