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Maintain pressure if you really want change

It's difficult not to write about Curriculum for Excellence these days. In the last weeks up to the release of National 4 and 5 exam details by the Scottish Qualifications Authority in April, tension is building, teachers are getting anxious about preparing material for qualifications they have never seen, and the unions - rightly - are voicing their members' worries.

This week's survey by the EIS will not put parents' minds at ease (page 5). Of the 1,834 teachers who responded to the questions, most - 1,500 - say they have found the support from government and Education Scotland unsatisfactory, and they won't be alone. Every one of their views matters, because it represents a teacher with whole classes whose education and results are at issue.

Even more worrying, a quarter of them say their S1-3s will not receive the broad general education which lies at the very heart of CfE, and 70 per cent are not confident they can deliver the new qualifications on schedule.

But why didn't more teachers respond? The survey was sent to 10,000 secondary members and the return rate was in the region of 25 per cent. That may be twice the rate of return for its previous CfE survey, as the EIS says, but if teachers were seriously alarmed, this was their chance to say so, before it's too late. If they really wanted to delay the exams for a year - and now was the time to vote, given the pressure on the education secretary following East Renfrewshire's delay - wouldn't they have voted in their thousands?

Larry Flanagan, the incoming general secretary of the EIS and former member of the CfE management board, has fought assiduously for the option of a one-year delay in implementing the courses. But when push comes to shove, he doesn't appear to have carried enough of them with him.

These figures are not likely to strike alarm in the education secretary's breast. And given that the directors of education are saying no schools or departments have come forward to ask for a delay, it looks increasingly improbable. What is more likely is that the Scottish Government's audit of schools, announced this week by Michael Russell, will endorse the teachers' call for more support and inservice, and identify where it is most urgently needed. It only remains for Education Scotland to find the manpower to provide it.

The Scottish Labour party and the Liberal Democrats had their chance to lay into the government's education policy too at last weekend's party conferences (page 9). They had plenty of ammunition with the current protests about CfE and cuts to further education, and each of the politicians strutted their stuff admirably on the stage. But the most they can actually do is maintain pressure on the government to support teachers to the hilt.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor of the year (business and professional). gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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