May’s meeting of Council, the last of the academic year, looked ahead to the impending EIS Annual General Meeting scheduled for June.

Last year, the decision was taken to hold the 2020 AGM online but in a significantly scaled-down format. This year, with technological solutions more readily available, EIS Executive had recommended a return to a more traditional AGM – although still in an online format.

President-Elect Heather Hughes told Council that a number of different options had been considered for the AGM. It was agreed that a return to the normal practice of Motions being debated, with speakers able to contribute from the ‘floor’ (albeit a virtual floor), was the preferred option for this year’s conference.

Other regular elements of the AGM, such as speeches by the President and General Secretary, the presentation of new Fellows of the Institute, Fringe meetings, and contributions from invited external speakers, will also feature in this year’s event.

The AGM will be held on 10-12 June, and will be covered live via the EIS website and social media channels.

Council also approved plans for the 2022 AGM, which will return to its normal physical format and is scheduled to be held in Dundee Caird Hall next June.

Covid policy

Ms Hughes reported that Executive had looked at a considerable amount of data related to Covid, including on policies adopted across the globe to fight the pandemic. Alternatives including the so-called ‘Zero-Covid’ strategy, which seeks to eliminate the disease entirely, and various forms of suppression strategies were explored and, following a lengthy discussion, Executive recommended support for a Sustainable Suppression Strategy should be the EIS position – see focus on pp10-11 for more information.

175th Anniversary

The coming year marks the 175th anniversary of the establishment of the EIS, Ms Hughes told Council. A working group has been established to determine an appropriate commemoration to mark this significant anniversary, and this project will be taken forward in the months ahead.

Environmental concerns

Executive agreed to set up a working group to take forward the EIS position on climate change especially around the COP26 conference in Glasgow this November.

A motion in the name of Sonia Kordiak (Edinburgh), called for the EIS to consider ways of off-setting the carbon footprint of any air travel undertaken by Institute members or employees in the course of EIS business.

“This would be an important step towards ensuring that the carbon footprint of the EIS is reduced to zero in the future,” said Ms Kordiak.

While not in opposition to the Motion, Valerie Hughson (Shetland) did sound a note of caution, reminding Council of the need to remember the issues faced by members in remote communities with regard to travel. “Travelling from Shetland, it would take two days of travel by boat and train to attend a meeting in Edinburgh”, she said.

The Motion was approved by Council, with no votes against.

Council News Snips

Education Convener Susan Quinn told Council that the EIS was having regular meetings with the SQA and others to seek to ensure that the Alternative Certification Model (ACM) is sound and workable. Ms Quinn highlighted that the EIS was pushing on mental health issues to be taken into account during the ACM and appeals process, with teachers and students alike under considerable additional stress at the present time.

Employment Relations Convener David Baxter, on Benevolent matters, reported that the Committee had considered 8 applications for assistance and 7 grants, totalling £15,500, were authorised. On Legal Affairs, the Committee considered 20 cases at the meeting and was pleased to note that £ 21,500 had been received in settlement on behalf of 4 members.

Equality Convener Nicola Fisher noted the success of the EIS Equality Hustings, held as part of a series of events in the run up to the Scottish Parliament election. Ms Fisher also highlighted the publication of the Phase 1 PACT projection report as a very important contribution to anti-poverty work within education. Ms Fisher also took the opportunity to pay tribute to former Equality Convener, and former EIS President, Bill Ramsay who was attending his final Council meeting before retirement.

Salaries Convener Des Morris provided a pay negotiations update, noting that it has now been over 2 months since the initial offer from COSLA on pay. Negotiations have been a slow process, largely due to the structure of COSLA and its internal procedures. Other delays caused by the Scottish election and the period of purdah were extremely frustrating, as was the slow rate of progress on negotiations overall, said Mr Morris. A pay negotiations update was emailed to all members covered by the SNCT on the day of Council.