Anyone for a spot of Wittgenstein?

9th July 1999 at 01:00
THE NEW education double act of Sam Galbraith and Peter Peacock performed at the launch of the Education Bill in Rosehall High, Coatbridge, where North Lanarkshire is running a summer school.

After discussing tastes in literature with pupils working with Theresa Breslin, the award-winning author, Mr Galbraith invited his deputy to reveal his current bedtime reading. Without a hint of irony, bearing in mind what some in the Labour Party regard as his meteoric rise to power, Mr Peacock replied: "The Prince by Machiavelli."

Mr Galbraith claimed that his present preference was a philosophical treatise by Wittgenstein. The young audience, more familiar with Lizzie's War and James and the Giant Peach, looked suitably impressed.

The aspirations and fine detail of the performance-enhancing Bill were lost on some others among the "stakeholders". A group of Columba High's sixth year had more immediate concerns, like the pressures of preparing for Higher Still.

Stephen Mullen, aged 16, said that pupils needed more supported study, instead of "just two months" before the exam.

Claire Louise McCusker, 17, said many were still unsure what Higher Still was all about and, because of the high expectations of parents and teachers, they needed more help, perhaps by taking extra classes. She was supported by Stephen Shaw, also 17, who felt that extra assessment would mean less time for study.

Joe McCambridge, assistant head at Rosehall and co-ordinator of the summer school, welcomed the opportunity to respond to the bill on the Internet:

"This is a step in the right direction and offers pupils a direct line to the Government. It will give pupils and teachers a sense of ownership."

Michael O'Neill, his boss and current president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, praised the Bill for "talking up teachers". "With responsibility comes accountability. We are relaxed about this and view it as being about help squads and not hit squads."

As for the Wittgenstein-reading minister: "If we get to failing schools, I will have failed. I will not be an easy touch."

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