Let's not end up like England, says union leader

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The new leader of Scotland's biggest teaching union has urged members to fight for successful implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) or risk "someone else's version" and an English-style erosion of local authority control.

The new leader of Scotland’s biggest teaching union has urged members to fight for successful implementation of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) or risk “someone else’s version” and an English-style erosion of local authority control.

Larry Flanagan, who succeeded Ronnie Smith as general secretary of the EIS earlier this year, reminded teachers at the annual general meeting that they had backed the original conception of CfE as a step forwards in educational policy.

However, some partners in national and local government, the Scottish Qualifications Agency, Education Scotland and elsewhere were now ignoring teachers’ voices and undermining professional trust and collegial practice, Mr Flanagan said.

“The biggest culprit, in my view, is local government, aka Education Directorates,” he said. 

“Too many are covering up their own insecurities with needless and misdirected bureaucracy which simply compounds the workload problems that always accompany curricular change.

“CfE is still a contested area and if we don’t fight to protect the integrity of CfE reforms, as they were promised and as we supported them, we will end up with someone else’s version.”

He also criticised an audit published by Education Scotland last month into the readiness of schools to introduce the new National Qualifications, which will replace Standard Grades and Intermediates from next year.

Education Scotland, which was formed at the start of this year, serves a dual role – in inspections and curricular support – but Mr Flanagan said it was already being equated in some quarters solely with HMIE and was becoming increasingly politicised.

The organisation concluded in its report that there was no need for any other councils to delay the exams, after East Renfrewshire decided to wait an extra year before introducing them.

However, on Friday (June 8) EIS members voted against industrial action over the timing of the Nationals.

Mr Flanagan said the least successful learners in Scottish schools, roughly 20 per cent of pupils, stood to gain most from CfE if the changes were enacted properly. He was scathing about English education minister Michael Gove – a Scot – who was dismantling local authority control via the expansion of academies, excessive testing and a restricted curriculum, among other policies.

“I suggest members only need to glance south of the border to see what we have escaped. He (Gove) is one export we are happy to see the back of and I can only apologise to members in our kindred organisations in England,” Mr Flanagan said.


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