The profession has doubts about change when not included in the decision process

George MacBride is to be congratulated for courage as much as for erudition on his article, "Out of the comfort zone" (TESS, June 7). Your juxtaposition of his offering with those of Marj Adams and John Hodgart illustrates well the difficulty he identifies.

While there are aspects of his argument with which I have difficulty, such as his apparent conflation of equality and social inclusion, I agree to a great extent with the sentiments he expresses about social inclusion and the need for changes in the mindset of all of us teachers.

Teachers are often profoundly conservative and viscerally oppose change. I am not condemning or branding the profession as a whole nor am I seeking to dismiss, by contempt, the genuine misgivings there are about any changes. Their experiences, and mine, are that "all too often things have been done to them rather than with them or by them".

Following James Callaghan's speech at Ruskin College in 1978 there was a growing ethos of blame, condemnation and vilification from sections of the media and politicians that sapped the confidence of many teachers, inhibited innovation and provoked protectionistreactionariness.

Parents' trust in teachers throughout the long period of persecution was consistently very high and was a source of sustenance. But teachers should not presume that parents' interests and their own are identical or that parental support is uncritical and unconditional.

Marj Adams's reactionary criticism of inclusion exemplifies the mindset of many of us. Rarely has she written a constructive article during her years as a TESS columnist.

Her whingeing selfishness drives a broadly sympathetic parent body to question what they are paying for and to worry if such people will bring benefits to their children.

Mr Hodgart's article in defence of Standard grade suffers from some of the same faults. He is right to argue that Standard grade deserves to be defended (because it has been a highly successful and inclusive examination system). As a parent, as well as a teacher, I would not want NQ English to be introduced at S3 at this time. But there are NQ courses which colleagues have introduced at S3, and earlier, on their own initiative - that I welcome.

In time I think Standard grade will go to an honourable grave, but I hope it will be after a principled, insightful, educational debate.

George MacBride is sometimes over-critical of the ways in which education is organised now. But he has expressed his views bravely and challengingly. We should praise Caesar, not bury him.

Alasdair Macdonald Headteacher Johnstone High

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