When separate literacy and numeracy tests were originally proposed, their most enthusiastic supporters were always the politicians, rather than teachers. Fiona Hyslop, the former Education Secretary, Labour and the Conservatives at various stages all thought the idea was a vote- winner. Fortunately, Michael Russell has listened to the profession. As he is wont to say, listening is his modus operandi: now we have action.
For pragmatic reasons - the main one probably being to ease the burden on the Scottish Qualifications Authority - the Education Secretary has come up with a new streamlined proposal. Literacy and numeracy skills will be assessed as a separate module "folded in", as Mr Russell describes it, to English and maths qualifications. There was always a danger with the previous plans for assessing literacy and numeracy, based on a portfolio of work across subjects, that some pupils might drop the wider, richer English and maths qualifications at S4. That option has now been effectively - and very sensibly - closed down.
But if Mr Russell has demonstrated his listening skills on this point, he is guilty of naivety on another. By inviting secondary heads to ask for support if they feel they are not ready to implement Curriculum for Excellence in August, he is being just a tad disingenuous. How many school leaders are going to put their heads above the parapet and admit to their council bosses that they have failed to get to grips with the reforms?
The issue now is whether Mr Russell has done enough to isolate those calling for a further year's delay in implementing the new curriculum. We believe he has - and the profession should respond accordingly. It would gain nothing from a perception that questions its competence to make changes, particularly when those changes are regarded as an urgent necessity.
Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).