Diary - Divide and conquer

1st October 2010 at 01:00

I have now completed 16 of the 53 boxes of "evidence and self- assessment documentation" required for the forthcoming inspection of the authority. Meanwhile, all seems well in our schools and centres, despite predictions of doom and gloom.

Anyway, I was invited to a very hush-hush conference on Scottish local government reorganisation. There was to be no public announcement of either the venue, the speakers or the list of attendees in case the media got wind of it. Fat chance.

I knew from informal soundings at the last ADES meeting that there weren't many (if any) of the few remaining directors of education who knew about it. I was only texted with the details of times and venues the night before. The agenda looked conspiratorial and subversive. The morning session was entitled "Scottish Education: New Structures, New Relationships."

I could guess the names of the "keynote speakers" - and I was spot on. The usual suspects. People who could propose, pontificate and pose - safe in the knowledge that they would never actually have to run a service themselves. The Yawn Factor was potentially extremely high.

I chose workshop one, "The New Map". If I was going to be a turkey, I would definitely want to have a vote on Christmas. We discussed all possible permutations. What about adopting the health board areas? Why not? A closer link between health, education and social services has many attractions. Another "expert" proposed following the same structures as the police services. Weren't they about to be "nationalised"?

By this time, frivolity, cynicism and sarcasm had set in. When was lunch? The assembly of retired chief executives, consultants and academics were almost wetting themselves with excitement as the workshop broke into discussion groups. I noted that there were only two real directors of education in the list of those present. Ominous?

I was in the same group as my colleague from a large northern authority and he shared my dismay at the discussions. We were in the same sub-group and decided to submit a minority report for the feedback session. The chair of the plenary led the predictable presentation of flip charts and each group spokesperson fidgeted and wriggled with a combination of pride and embarrassment.

Then I nearly passed out. The good professor announced that there had been an exciting and radical proposal from the group in the Balmoral Bar. My colleague was invited from the body of the kirk to explain our "thinking". Scotland's education service was to be delivered from two major centres in Inverness and Dumfries. Sharp intakes of breath. Hamish could be Cock of the North and I would be Queen of the South.

I ask you: is that any dafter than some of the other suggestions?

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