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Boldness is a benefit

WHETHER the Inspectorate had grown too big for its boots and become too involved in policy-making is less important than that people had reached such a belief. In an era of open government, transparency of decision-making and stakeholder involvement, it is unsurprising that a new minister should have decided to remove a widely-held grievance.

To insiders, restructuring a service that dates back to the early days of Queen Victoria is boldness itself. To the general public, it is undramatic because their immediate interests are not touched. To teachers, it holds out prospects of benefit - and any governmental olive branch is welcome when the minister responsible is about to face end-game in the negotiations about pay and conditions and will need all the goodwill he has accumulated.

The new way of working starts on December 1 and details of howindependent the executive agency will be remain unclear. So is the process by which other inspectors meld into the administrative teams of the education department.

Unusually for the civil service, this is restructuring on the hoof, an indication that Jack McConnell feels a need immediately to draw a line under past controversies about the development of Higher Still, just as he has tried to set the Scottish Qualifications Authority on a firm new course. As with the departure of Sam Galbraith from education, another sting has been drawn from the forthcoming reports on the SQA and Higher Still by the parliamentary committees.

When the inspector calls, teachers will learn whether adherence to every last detail of curriculum and management "advice" is no longer expected now that the ownership of policy has shifted. Don't count on it.

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