Directors disown teacher bashing

15th January 1999 at 00:00
Shape up or ship out. Ministers seize on HMI criticisms to speed up legislation to remove incompetent teachers

THE PRESIDENT of the Association of Directors of Education has condemned continued attacks on teachers following HMI's report on standards and pinned the blame for weaknesses on curriculum organisation.

"You do not get improvements by bashing teachers," Michael O'Neill said. Staff would be "outraged" by press coverage.

The report confirmed the high quality of Scottish education and the dedication of hardworking staff, Mr O'Neill said. Critics had been wrong to leap on statistics that showed leadership problems in 20 per cent of primary schools and 15 per cent of secondaries.

"If you worked for Marks and Spencer or IBM and you found 85 per cent of senior managers were very good that would be a cause for celebration," the North Lanarkshire director said.

Improvements would come through the introduction of headteachers' qualifications, backed by professional development and support mechanisms such as mentoring. Many heads currently received no training.

Mr O'Neill says solutions to the key weaknesses in primary and secondary teaching and learning lay in Scottish Office hands. The complexities of the 5-14 programme, particularly environmental studies.

"Staff are struggling to deal with environmental studies and expressive arts and they are not in a position to spend more time on maths and language," he argued.

The lack of rigour and pace of learning in early secondary were down to the structure of the curriculum rather than the learning and teaching. "The real issue lies in a radical look at the S1-S2 curriculum," Mr O'Neill stated.

Ronnie Smith, the Educational Institute of Scotland's general secretary, said teachers would see the report and its coverage as "an unfair and unjustified spin on their performance. Were teachers' reports on pupils to accentuate the negative in the same way, they would be torn apart because that's not constructive."

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