It is impossible to read HMIE's state of the nation report on education (p 4-5), or indeed the regular coverage we provide in these pages, without concluding that there is a good deal of effective and innovative teaching in Scottish schools and colleges. Every profession needs to have its worth affirmed from time to time, and education is certainly seen as a noble endeavour. But those working in the professions also need to have the value of what they do reinforced, and teachers certainly do not get enough of that.
The school inspector, no matter how cuddly he or she tries to appear, will never be the pin-up of the nation's staffrooms. That is probably how it should be, for every profession needs to hear unpalatable messages and the result is often a rush to shoot the messenger. Responses to HMIE reports very much depend on whether one tends towards the optimistic or the pessimistic view, whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. Its latest report has much sustenance for both camps.
The blot on the landscape is funding. The constant challenges for schools to raise their game, engage in meaningful professional development, reform teaching approaches and compensate for the educational consequences of endemic social conditions are a tall order in normal circumstances. But, as senior chief inspector Graham Donaldson acknowledges, these ain't normal times. The news from Glasgow this week that it is freezing virtually all education expenditure (p3) will give a hollow ring to calls for schools to step up a gear.
Mr Donaldson may be right to argue that they have no option and, if the inspectorate believes that A Curriculum for Excellence is the only game in town, so be it. But it may be HMIE and its political masters who have to step up a gear in demonstrating to schools how they can square the circle.