Cast your vote for schools

18th August 2006 at 01:00
So, welcome back. Or is it? A glance at some of the most recent preoccupations suggests that staffroom and classroom life after the holidays will have a familiar ring to them. Education authorities are accused of mis-spending government cash, the cash itself allegedly does not go far enough, exam standards are either up or down (or should that be neither up nor down?), the challenge of motivating all pupils remains, the opportunity gap is still yawning - as no doubt some readers will be at the end of this list.

Yet, in many ways the 2006-07 session could be an annus mirabilis, or an annus horribilis, as far as the Scottish Executive is concerned. Some chickens may come home to roost, some may take confident wing. For 2007 is the year when the target of 53,000 teachers is to be achieved, class sizes are to be reduced in P1 and S1-S2, HMIE will report on the educational effectiveness of the teachers' agreement (as opposed to its narrower value for money) and the future of Standard grade will be determined. And, of course, there will be more curriculum change, more assessment for learning and more schools of ambition.

Crucially, 2007 is also the year of the Scottish general election, as well as the new and unpredictable electoral contest in local government based on proportional representation. The effectiveness of educational policies will be probed and tested in the heat of battle, no doubt. Is it too much to hope that the battle will not portray schools as a battleground? Perhaps Matthew MacIver, registrar of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, had this in mind when he entered a fresh plea for newly qualified teachers to "talk up the profession" (page two). Amen, we say - and welcome back.

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