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School's not out

HOW easily things get out of focus. There is the chief executive of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities telling a conference (page five) that within 10 years school buildings and a teacher-led curriculum will be history.

On the other hand the local authorities under their Cosla umbrella struggle to keep Unison janitors in line and the schools open. They are about to embark on the next stage of a decade-long campaign to tidy up teachers' contracts. The brave new world depicted by Oonagh Aitken must wait upon a resolution of the conflict about how many hours a teacher should work in and out of the classroom.

No doubt the visionaries - IT wizards or public service leaders - will say that circumstances are an irresistible force for change. But society has equipped pupils with mobile phones and personal e-mail addresses and yt the same arguments bedevil the teaching profession, not to mention janitors, as a quarter of a century ago.

Higher Still, we are told, has come in too quickly -

well, it is true, we are still in the first decade of its development. The 5 14 programme continues to provoke debate, not surprisingly since not all of its bits are in place, although the pupils who first tasted it in lower primary must now be adolescent.

Institutional change, as opposed to personal communications behaviour, comes slowly. Schools will be with us longer than Ms Aitken predicts. That is bad news for the councils that face a pound;1.3 billion bill to lick them into shape. But no one has found a better place to educate children. The furniture has been moved about, from desks in serried ranks to friendly groups. Shifting attitudes takes longer.

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