Editor's comment

24th November 2006 at 00:00
The re-heated comments by Jack McConnell, hotting up Labour's education strategy for the next election, will no doubt provoke resigned ennui. It is the pre-election jousting period after all. Education is his party's "big idea" to dish the Nats.

Labour's problem at present is that it has not been presenting the full "big picture", allowing apparently disjointed announcements on skills, science and selection to drip out instead. Perhaps its conference in Oban this weekend will join up the dots.

Labour's thinking is hardly revolutionary. The skills and science academies are a natural development from, respectively, existing skills for work courses and the national centres of excellence. The much-hyped suggestion that Mr McConnell is dismantling comprehensive education by ditching mixed ability teaching and installing setting by ability in different subjects will be news to more seasoned observers than those who write the headlines, not least the inspectorate.

It has been banging on for years about the importance of teaching that is "appropriate", using mixed ability and setting (but not streaming). Ten years ago, almost to the month, HMI (as it was) delivered that message in its Achievement for All report, and its current head updated it in his talk to secondary heads last week. It would be impossible to shine a light between those sentiments and Mr McConnell's statement this week that "there is a place for mixed ability classes but there is also a place for setting groups of kids together".

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