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Less sniping and more partnership

Peter Peacock, in his article "Is this the end of the concordat?" (TESS, December 11), joins the long list of ex-government ministers from the Labour Party who become innovative and bold only when they have left office.

Maybe, just maybe, the current government wants a relationship with local government that is mature, robust and trusting - and maybe, just maybe, that is exactly what local government wants in return. In any case who says a concordat has to be cordial all the time?

Peter Peacock, after having a go at the SNP, then offers us the benefit of his considerable experience. A reduced number of local authorities and more devolution to headteachers, he suggests, is the way forward. If he thinks that is the way to go - and I may not argue with him on the principles - then why did he not go down that route when in office?

The ring-fenced budgets of the previous Labour-dominated government were delivered, not to schools, but to local authorities and they were ring- fenced because he could not trust his own Labour councils to deliver on education.

There has also been much debate recently regarding components of our system: a new curriculum model, class sizes, assessment. All are important in their own right but, of all the "bits" that make up a coherent educational framework, I do believe the single most important is maintaining teacher quality, as Neil Kay pointed out (TESS, December 11). Walter Humes in his article (same issue) mentions it again, suggesting a need to look closely at continuing professional development.

Both are absolutely right. From our newly-qualified teachers to heads, the extent and nature of CPD, particularly in succession planning, is the critical factor in producing a workforce capable of delivering a world- class education and of being led and managed by world-class leaders. Certainly, cash is required to ensure CPD provision, but the biggest requirement is time.

I, for one, hope the Government, despite the sniping from the sidelines, gets on and delivers on all the components. It can only do so if the profession and local authorities rise to the challenge and embrace a partnership model.

Hamish Vernal, Inverurie (director of education in Aberdeenshire, 2000- 05).

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