I agree with Paul Hutcheon that the role of teachers union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is generally misunderstood (How Scotland's most powerful teacher started out in life as a revolutionary red Trotskyist, People Behind the Power, July 9). It is unfortunate then that he surrounds this statement with the usual misconceptions about the organisation before effectively branding its General Secretary Larry Flanagan a well-paid mouthpiece for some narrow self-interest group.

It is simplistic to compartmentalise the various players in Scottish education and suggest conflicting priorities. The reality is one of shared interests whether parent, teacher or pupil. No-one can be satisfied with a system that is perceived to be performing poorly whether that perception is justified or not.

Although the EIS may not, as he asserts, exist to close the attainment gap this is nevertheless a large part of the daily work of its members and will always be on the agenda. Similarly, it may not exist to stand up for parents but its members have often been seen to stand up with parents to address shared concerns.

Loading article content

During my time as one of Larry’s colleagues on the EIS Education Committee I was not just a practising teacher but also, like many within and without the teaching profession, the parent of a child going through the system as a pupil. There is no greater vested interest than this and it does not involve the blind support for the status quo. The main concern is that the system works and necessary changes will be supported while unnecessary ones will be opposed.

The first part of the EIS mission statement as written in to its Royal Charter in 1847 was the “promotion of sound education”. As with any union, representing members plays a major part in day to day business. However there is no conflict between the two. We are all in the same boat when it comes to education and, despite the occasional dispute as to who gets to hold the tiller, all hopefully rowing in the same direction.

Robin Irvine


Paul Hutcheon reports that Larry Flanagan, the General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, is not in favour of the Catholic Church’s role in approving teaching appointments in Catholic schools (Head of teachers' union turns fire on Catholic schools, News, July 9). The problem would be solved if we ended legalised religious discrimination in our education systems across the whole of the UK by moving towards 100 per cent non-denominational state funded education.

However, who is going to lead the campaign? The politicians aren’t interested. It might cost them votes. At a local hustings meeting prior to our council elections I asked the candidates to explain what value having separate church schools brought to our society – but I asked them to answer without using words like “choice”, or “tradition”. All of the main party candidates refused to do so.

Douglas Morton