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Motivation begins with the teacher

Let us hope that the teachers the Scottish Executive is currently trying to recruit do not spend too much time poring over the submissions to the parliamentary education committee's inquiry into pupil motivation (page four). If they did, they would find at least three of the unions conveying messages which suggest that schools are almost incapable of providing fulfilling careers. Such apparent hotbeds of disaffection would be enough to give anyone cold feet. Indeed, there are times, reading the submissions, when one wonders whether many teachers actually like their young charges.

Perhaps the next parliamentary task is to scrutinise teachers' motivation.

Of course, since this is an inquiry into pupil motivation, the evidence will inevitably dwell on the negative side of the equation. But we should expect it to be proportionate, and not to feed frenzied headlines suggesting everything in the garden is going horribly wrong. The Educational Institute of Scotland, at least, attempts to direct MSPs to the context of it all: national and international evidence points to major achievements of progress and satisfaction in Scottish schools, but there are serious (and perhaps growing) problems of discipline and attitude. The external factors behind these problems are exhaustively rehearsed in the unions' submissions. The issue is not new, however, although the intensity may be: discipline was certainly a major preoccupation 30 years ago when the Pack committee was set up to examine it.

As has been said many times, the key to resolving at least some of the issues is the relationship between teacher and pupil, which in turn is partly affected by what is taught. This is undoubtedly complex but, if it is to be tackled, teachers must be prepared to have an insight into themselves as well as into their pupils. We hope, therefore, that MSPs were listening carefully to the wisdom of what the psychologist Alan McLean had to say to them.

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