Editor's comment

"Consistency" is a reassuring word, conjuring up a sense of harmony, steadfastness, and dependability. Of course, William McGonagall's poetry, Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards's ski-jumping and Enron's financial management were consistent, too - consistently atrocious.

It's a point worth bearing in mind when Renfrewshire Council insists that its new early years policy will provide "consistency in relation to teacher access" for pre-school children. In practice, this means that not a single nursery teacher will be based in a nursery class. Instead, they will rove between nurseries and pre-five centres as part of a peripatetic team, join the supply list, or be forced to abandon nursery education altogether and go into primary teaching.

Rather than aspiring to have more nursery teachers, the authority has decided that fewer nursery teachers, shared around more fairly, is the way forward. It's a bit like the British Olympic Association looking ahead to London 2012 and deciding to slash the coaching staff of its most successful teams, the cyclists and the rowers.

Surprisingly, the council - led by the SNP with a little help from the Lib Dems - claims that it is simply adhering to the national policy of an SNP Government which makes a big play of its commitment to the early years. Ministers could reasonably argue that it is too big a stretch to provide classroom-based teachers for every single nursery-age child. But can a manifesto promise of "access to a fully- qualified nursery teacher for every nursery-age child" really be doublespeak for "fewer teachers"? When the Government declines to rule this out, we can hardly be blamed for the speculation.

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