The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) yesterday agreed to a future campaign of industrial action with other trade unions to defend jobs and safeguard terms and conditions.
The union's annual general meeting in Dundee also voted to continue its battle against pension cuts, which has already seen the EIS and other unions take one-day strike action.
However, delegates voted against demanding a delay in the roll-out of new National 4 and National 5 qualifications backed up with a ballot on industrial action, which could have derailed the process. The move is a victory for the EIS ruling council which argued a recent support package to help deliver the qualifications – which already gives schools the right to delay – should be given a chance to succeed.
The Scottish Government, which agreed the £3.5 million deal with the EIS, also welcomed the decision. During a passionate debate, delegates spelled out the difficulties facing classroom teachers across Scotland.
Brian McGovern, secretary of the Renfrewshire local association of the EIS, said teachers were "walking into an abyss".
"I cannot believe why people think the problems will be solved with £3.5m. The problems are still there," he said. "We should have a delay. There are thousands and thousands of children depending on this. The future of Scotland depends on this."
Charles McKinnon, from the Glasgow local association, described the rescue package as "tokenistic" and accused Education Secretary Michael Russell of "political bullying".
Arguing individual schools were in a weak position when pushing for a delay, he added: "We are in an emergency situation and we need to back it up with industrial action."
However, Susan Quinn, the EIS vice-president, argued individual departments and schools which needed more time should be negotiating a delay with councils. "I sympathise with the concerns, but we have achieved a support package which meets much of what we were looking for," she said.
In his maiden speech to the agm, new EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan also insisted the union's focus should be on making the Curriculum for Excellence support package work. But speaking on pensions, he said Mr Russell "cannot hide behind the coat-tails of some Eton toffs at Westminster".
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "We are committed to public sector pensions which are affordable, sustainable and fair to public sector workers and the communities they serve."