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Saturday, 10 June, 2000, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
EIS backs boycott ballot
EIS conference
Higher Still reforms came under fire at conference
BBC Scotland education correspondent Ken Macdonald reports from the EIS's annual conference in Dundee

Scotland's biggest teaching union is to ballot its members on a boycott of all new initiatives in secondary schools.

The Educational Institute of Scotland conference ended in Dundee with a vote to stop changes to the curriculum in protest at the Higher Still exam reforms.

However, another vote rejected a call to boycott the new courses themselves.

The boycott vote was wafer-thin and against the wishes of the EIS leadership.
Pupil writing
Pupils facing "barrage" of tests
But delegates voted by 152 to 150 in favour of the boycott, which commits the union to ballot on a freeze on all new developments in the secondary curriculum - until the Higher Still reforms are bedded in.

Successive speakers said the new courses have been rushed into schools.

They said pupils are wilting under a barrage of tests and teachers are spending too much time administering these internal assessments at the expense of actually teaching.

The result is still a significant shift on last year when delegates were debating whether to boycott Higher Still altogether.

Pupils have been sitting the first of the new Higher Still exams in recent weeks and one of the most persistent criticisms has been the burden of internal assessment the reforms place on teachers.

Delegates rejected a proposal to boycott the assessments themselves - which pupils must pass before they sit the final exams - in one of eight motions criticising Higher Still.

Pay and contracts

On Friday, delegates overwhelmingly backed the repeal of Section 28.

The decision followed an intervention by gay teacher Jim Whannell - who accused Roman Catholic Cardinal Thomas Winning of making "disgraceful and reprehensible" comments on the issue.

He described the backlash against repeal as a low point in Scottish history.

In discussions on another key issue, general secretary Ronnie Smith gave the clearest signal yet that agreement could be reached following the McCrone report on classroom pay and contracts.

He said the report left many questions unanswered, not least who would foot the bill, but he did say it was a "start".

Mr Smith said: "The long cherished EIS ambition of securing harmonisation of pay levels, structures and terms and conditions of employment among all sectors is at last within reach. No more will primary education by the Cinderella sector."

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 ON THIS STORY
Education correspondent Ken Macdonald
"The boycott vote was against the wishes of the EIS leadership"
See also:

19 Apr 00 | Unions 2000
08 Jun 00 | Scotland
31 May 00 | Scotland
22 Nov 99 | UK Education
18 Aug 99 | exams99
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