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Drive for excellence fails to excite

Bodies concerned with specific points in the Government's White Paper on Targeting Excellence expressed satisfaction when it was published on Wednesday. Those looking at the broader sweep were disappointed.

The Headteachers' Association of Scotland welcomed the focus on the quality and status of teachers, but George Ross, its secretary, said: "I hope that where a school has been identified as in need of improvement the local authorities will continue to be allowed to have a supportive role. Some of the proposals look like the English scenario where hit squads are sent in."

The Secretary of State proposes that where weaknesses are not eradicated, central government might appoint a team to give the school support in management and teaching, in co-operation with the education authority.

Matt MacIver, depute registrar of the General Teaching Council, said that the council's future role in teachers' continuing professional development "is as important a feature of the paper as any other. What remains to be done now is to define the precise role that the council will play."

Among the proposals is that the GTC should keep a central record of teachers' progress.

But Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, spoke of a "wasted opportunity" and "a tragic failure of imagination". The Government's only motive in threatening to remove teachers' negotiating rights was to "push unpalatable changes in conditions down the throats of teachers for unacceptable levels of pay".

The Professional Association of Teachers said that the Education Minister had continued her theme of "teacher bashing", and Brian Monteith, the Tories' education spokesman, rubbed salt in the wound by claiming that many of the proposals had been launched in the Conservatives' White Paper exactly two years ago. "So what has this Labour Government being doing all this time?" Mr Monteith gibed.

But Donald Dewar, in launching the paper, expressed confidence that the new parliament would legislate where necessary and "endorse our prime objective of targeting excellence".

Proposals in detail, page 4 Leader, page 18

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