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No voice for the classroom toiler

The Educational Institute of Scotland deserves support in its protest at the exclusion of teacher and lecturer representatives from the new Scottish Qualifications Authority (page two). Among the 18 members space had been found for six from industry and commerce but none from the classroom. Three headteachers and a further education principal constitute the professional voice.

Classroom teachers may be too busy implementing Higher Still to sit on the body administering the exams and issuing certificates. But it is they who can point to problems which come in the way of the grand design. Bringing together academic and vocational qualifications will not be easy. From the Howie report to Opportunity for All, there have been plenty of diagrams sing routes of progress for pupils and students. But every school timetabler knows the gap between paper perfection and embarrassment. It is only when the corridors fill with double-booked classes that the hiccups are heard.

The SQA will no doubt devise its own mechanisms to monitor hiccuping. Creating staffroom confidence will be another matter. There is a widespread feeling that Scottish education operates at two levels: decision-making belongs to a charmed circle that includes some heads as well as central and local government. The rest of the profession has only an executive function, whatever the nominal forms of consultation.

Leaving people on the outside to pick up the pieces is no way to arouse enthusiasm. Most secondary teachers believe that the much desired aims of Higher Still will be impossible to achieve because of shortage of time and resources. The Government strongly disagrees. The SQA, which will have to bear in mind teachers' preoccupation with the 5-14 programme and the year-by-year demands of Standard grade as well as the challenge of Higher Still, needs to implement the Government's decisions and ensure the best conditions for pupils and students to attain the goals of Opportunity for All.

A handful of teachers and lecturers would not do that. But where necessary they could hoist the storm cones and give their colleagues hope that the staffroom voice will be heard. The SQA will need the ready co-operation of teachers and a place should have been found for them.

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