THE FIRST test for the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Bill will come when the Parliament's education committee debates whether the consultation process was adequate. The answer can only be yes, and the way in which responses to the consultation document are discussed in the paper accompanying the Bill this week are welcome testimony to the inclusive approach to legislation promised in the run-up to the birth of the Parliament. Not all ideas are adopted by the Executive. Some run counter to its policies, others are narrow or self-regarding. But the indications are that someone has read and considered suggestions, and there is an argued rebuttal of various points.
In the first education Bill under devolution, a restatement of the purposes of education and the duties that fall on its providers is welcome. We can do with a glimpse of the "vision thing" when many of the emanations from the Executive and its Inspectorate deal with hard-nosed targeting, auditing and accountability. Welcome too is the Executive's assertion that exam results are not he only benchmark of success and that all of a child's talents should be nurtured. Narrow minded judgments can in future be countered by referring to statute. When school targets are reset in 2001, they will optimistically take greater account of local circumstances and the breadth of a school's purpose, as laid down in its legally required development plan.
Despite the months of consultation "national priorities" remain to be spelt out. These will determine obligations on local authorities and headteachers. Some can be guessed at - including the measures for improving schools. The consultation response hints at others, such as Gaelic.
The Executive would like to see the legislation as part of a process and not a drawing of the line under certain debates. Abolition of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee is confirmed. The McCrone committee will help determine what replaces it. The General Teaching Council is prised from the rigidity of Westminster statute. Openmindedness is a virtue but legislation can unravel from loose ends.