Apple pie from Jack

10th November 2000 at 00:00
SO far it's lucky Jack. Not only did the new Minister for Education have the immediate opportunity to lambast the culprits in a mess he did not create and so administer the slap of firm government, but he has also been presented with an opportunity to set out his own stall. The consultation on the Executive's motherhood-and-apple-pie "national priorities" had finished. Jack McConnell could announce those that are to be enshrined in an Order under the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act. So he went back to the school he once taught in and took the opportunity to mouth sentiments (page three) worthy of a new minister.

He will speak to teachers. He will pay attention to what pupils and parents say. His is a listening government. There must be no further imposition of unwanted changes from above. At the same time standards in schools must be high and the national priorities spellout what teachers should be aiming to instil and achieve.

And so say all of us. The new minister will instigate a programme for meeting teachers. His predecessor, Sam Galbraith, started off with similar intent. The continuing talks about the McCrone report are testimony to Mr Galbraith's attempt to involve representatives of the profession and the employers in finding an agreed package, for to impose one from above would have offended the Executive's principles.

As for the national priorities, they are like an institutional mission statement, harmless but unsupportive. All heads could subscribe them as aims already pursued in their schools. They do not help teachers meet day-to-day objectives or cope with workload. Crucially, they do not invite challenging debate about the nature and purpose of education. They belong to Labour's "feel good" pseudo-philosophy.

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