Editor's comment

13th April 2007 at 01:00
Inevitably, election manifestos generate excitement.

However, the excitement needs to be tempered. These promissory notes depend on the outcome of the election and, because the voting system is designed to ensure no one party has overall parliamentary control, on the horse-trading which will accompany coalition talks between the parties likely to form the government. Only at that stage will the real priorities emerge from the wish-lists.

Whatever party wins - or shares - power, it seems inevitable that the focus will be on reducing class sizes and bringing in major changes to the pre-school and primary years. Primary teachers look likely to experience more change than most: early years and childcare are seen by politicians as holding the key to economic as well as educational advance; the parties also believe that "catching them young" will avoid storing up social trouble in later years; and primaries are expected to embrace more science, languages and PE for reasons that are not entirely educational. Are there enough hours in the day - or teachers on the planet?

At least Jack McConnell, the former "sums" teacher (as he likes to style himself), was realistic enough to make it clear that, if education spending is to rise under Labour's proposals by double the rate of inflation every year, something will have to give - and that "something" is expenditure in other areas. Yet that does not stop his party committing itself to targets galore.

Targets are fine, but they do tend to hoist politicians with their own petard - or perhaps their own PR. Trends are rather more informative than targets. And it seems clear, at this stage in the election campaign, what the political trends are.

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