Analysis: 'Vote offers a chance to spit out the dummy'

A DECADE after it was written, the McCrone agreement is in danger of unravelling faster than the woolly cardigan of a plummeting bungee-jumper whose sleeve snagged on a platform nail.

Given the previous history of upheavals in Scottish education, the title of Professor McCrone's report - A Teaching Profession for the 21st century - always seemed a tad optimistic.

In the face of proposals by Cosla to change aspects of the compact, yesterday's decision by EIS conference delegates to back industrial action to defend working conditions was entirely predictable.

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Like other public-sector workers, teachers reluctantly accepted a two-year wage freeze which, given the current rate of inflation, represents a 10 per cent fall in living standards.

But in its submission to the McCormac review, Cosla is calling for the hard-fought gains of the teaching profession to be rolled back. Local authorities want Scottish teachers, who already have more pupil contact than most EU counterparts, to spend even more time in the classroom. Further, Cosla wishes to end the practice of teachers being able to do correction and preparation at a place of their own choosing. Apparently, they cannot be trusted to do work at home; perhaps clamping electronic tags round Sir's ankles would assuage Cosla fears. The suggestion by councils of a week's holiday with five days of Continuous Professional Development will upset frazzled dominies, but undoubtedly please those who perceive the local school to be a de facto, free childcare facility.

Many grassroots EIS members have lost faith in the ability of the union's big guns to stand up to council bully-boys. The single bullet classroom teachers possess is the knowledge that the successful implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence depends on the goodwill of those who are delivering it. In November, the EIS holds a ballot on boycotting the new curriculum, an opportunity for disgruntled teachers to spit out the dummy.

There is heavy irony that fostering a climate of mutual respect, collegiality and positive industrial relations was a key element of the McCrone report.

• Hugh Reilly is a teacher and columnist for The Scotsman.