Editor's comment

27th November 2009 at 00:00

You have to feel for Fiona Hyslop. No sooner has the Education Minister taken a decision that makes manifest sense, such as her "teacher refresh" package (p1), than her new best pals in the local authorities jump down her throat. As one of the progenitors of the concordat between local and central government, it would be too easy to say that we should blame the parents: the Government is constantly hoist by its own PR about the benefits of the deal the two sides struck. The rhetoric behind the virtue of "local decisions taken locally" is being constantly tested by the visceral attraction of national politicians to intervene, whether it be on class sizes or teacher retirement.

The criticisms of the local authorities beggar belief, but they are political criticisms. Something interesting is going on if nearly three- quarters of councils say they oppose the Government's scheme to swap new for old teachers, while education directors endorse it. Did the politicians who responded to the Cosla survey consult their professional education advisers? If they did, and to coin a phrase, did they "ride roughshod" over the views of their officials?

We might legitimately question the vehicle which the Government has chosen to fund its scheme: allowing councils to borrow the money rather than providing direct financial support. In the current climate, neither is particularly attractive politically or economically. But, while Cosla speaks for the generality of council spending, it also needs to recognise that an education minister has specific imperatives. And it has been abundantly clear, since The TESS began its regular surveys of probationers' job prospects, that something had to be done to improve them. This is one way - and, after all, councils are fond of reminding us that they have a role in mitigating the ravages of unemployment.

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