EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan is owed a debt of gratitude by Scots of all ages for his leadership on the issue of P1 assessments. His actions are even more praiseworthy in light of decisions by Fife Council and some council representatives to Cosla.

My knowledge of this issue is that of a non-professional who has a definite interest as a parent with school age children and as a councillor seeking the best for all our children. At a recent Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Education Committee meeting I was heartened to hear this Scottish Government initiative being supported by councillors whom I consider eminent teachers and educationalists.

There are currently six councillors out of 31 who are teachers and although five of the six are no longer in classrooms, they do continue to be teachers despite pretensions of retirement. These are people who dedicated their careers to improving the lives of generations of Island scholars and were principal teacher, depute headmaster and headmasters.

The consensus of these teachers, who spoke to this issue of assessing scholars in their first year in school, was remarkably consistent, irrespective of their political brand. These teachers continue to have a mass of in-depth working knowledge and practical experience of assessing classes and helping pupils learn in real life but considered the P1 assessment process to be a good, fun and play-based means of identifying needs and pupils who might benefit from additional assistance at an early stage to help them achieve their potential.

I am certainly willing to be corrected as to what I heard spoken by these eminent experts but I have no recollection of the Scottish Government being criticised on this issue, nor do I recall any snub to the professionalism of teachers and definitely none to the EIS, the parents or the children. A barrage of negative reports in the media have followed on from this and the sole voice of balance and consideration has come from Flanagan as leader of the teachers’ union.

My view on the teachers’ current pay review is that teachers deserve every penny of their pay, and their pay increases, not just for their work in schools but for their conduct outside of it. On Saturday October 27, there was a rally and march in Glasgow organised by the EIS. More than 30,000 teachers took part in support of pay increases. Police presence was primarily limited to directing diverted traffic and helping the confused with directions.

It is however unfortunate that the pay settlement sought will be dictated not just by the austerity finances allocated by the Westminster Government but also in the political games being played by representatives to Cosla which are akin to the games used for decades against Glasgow City’s women employees by union leaders.

It is clear to us all that teachers are dedicated to getting the best for their pupils and we must continue to do our utmost to support them. Based on how the teachers praised the P1 assessment process in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and how they see the P1 assessment process as entirely beneficial, I am able to accept that the Scottish Government should continue with this opportunity to afford children the best options for their future.

Flanagan is therefore to be thanked for having the courage and integrity to say publicly that any decisions on the P1 assessment programme as extant should be “evidence based”. That approach is certainly preferable to the base, petty and petulantly political games used by opponents against the P1 assessment programme to justify its removal irrespective of the advantage afforded to pupils.

Calum MacMillan
SNP councillor, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar