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Curriculum advisers in agony over image

Senior officials at the Government's top education quango have criticised their chief executive and chairman for damaging their public image.

Minutes leaked to The TES this week show that School Curriculum and Assessment Authority officers are upset about recent speeches by Dr Nick Tate and his chairman Sir Ron Dearing on national identity, moral and spiritual education and culture.

The minutes are from a "report-back" meeting of 40 professional officers, held to discuss the SCAA Curriculum, Culture and Society conference on February 7. They highlight concern, apparently raised by a small group of officers, that the personal views of Dr Tate and some speakers at the conference appeared to be being promoted by SCAA.

"These views were not shared by the majority of delegates. This placed those officers attending the conference in a difficult position," the paper states.

Dr Tate is also reportedly criticised for over-stressing British identity. "It is inappropriate for SCAA to promote British history as something which people should be proud of, in fact there is much to be embarrassed about."

Both Dr Tate and Sir Ron, who in a speech last month said teachers should take a moral lead in society, are accused of taking SCAA into "new and difficult territory. This has damaged SCAA's public image. Some staff felt embarrassed to be associated with an organisation promoting such views."

The minutes also record concerns about a lack of SCAA officers with ethnic backgrounds and the fact that out of 31 speakers at the culture and society conference, only three were women. "This suggests that SCAA should be promoting, not attacking, multiculturalism and equal opportunities." Dr Tate insisted the comments were not typical. "This was an unapproved minute of an informal meeting and the views expressed were those of three or four people out of a meeting of 40."

Keith Weller, a SCAA assistant chief executive who chaired the meeting, said the debate had been "completely healthy".

John Sutton, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, warned that there was a danger that Dr Tate's powerful position could persuade schools to form policy on mere opinion.

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