Editor's comment

17th November 2006 at 00:00
Ministers come and go, but officials go on forever. In the past, many in the education community would have been delighted to see both groups do nothing other than go. But it has been one of the true gains of devolution that the presence of ministers and their officials on the Scottish, rather than Westminster, doorstep has led to an openness and approachability in the corridors of power which has been without precedent.

The tone is set from the top and we have no doubt that Peter Peacock, now just MSP, encouraged that culture. The regret which has greeted the former Education Minister's decision to step down on health grounds will suggest to some that he was too school-friendly by half. But, having seen education ministers come and go, we believe such a conclusion is misguided.

Peacock, in our view, was among the more outstanding education ministers of the past few years - perhaps in the same league as Michael Forsyth. He was articulate, passionate, committed and exercised an impressive command of his brief. Peacock, though, had the easier job in the sense that he went with the grain of the teaching profession. That courted criticism, but it produced results. Schools will not argue that the reform agenda is dead.

Hugh Henry, the new Education Minister, has a hard act to follow.

Meanwhile, as the inspectorate's report on Tomintoul Primary shows (page 4), HMIE goes on forever. Its influence is as considerable as that of ministers, where it matters - at the heart of school life. The departure of the school's head, following one of the most critical inspection reports ever, reinforces HMIE's impact.

The question is why the situation was allowed to continue. What was Moray Council doing? And how confident can we be about the dozens of schools which have not been inspected for over 20 years? There is much unfinished business to keep Henry extremely busy.

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