EDUCATION has been mismanaged by the Scottish Office for 20 years and will continue to suffer if proposed national priorities are railroaded through, the Educational Institute of Scotland's president warned the union's annual conference in Dundee yesterday (Thursday).
John Patton, a primary head in Clackmannan, launched a blistering attack on the Scottish Executive for its narrow view of teaching and learning, embodied in its appendix to the education Bill.
"It is a fairly shallow, deeply conservative and inflexible, retrogressive document of the back-to-basics genre. Fairly predictably, its national education priorities are those which can most easily be measured," he said.
"That seamlessly accords with the astounding belief at the highest levels in the Scottish Executive Education Department that, if attainment and skills cannot be measured, then they do not exist."
Mr Patton believed ministers were obsessed with a strategy "intent on addressing the needs of the future by returning to the past". Selection was the obvious outcome of the current preoccupation with national testing in the context of increased setting and streaming.
Sam Galbraith, Children and Education Minister, although a neurosurgeon, had ignored recent research in focusing on limited education priorities. This wa not untypical of the "consistent and worrying mismanagement" of education by central government over 20 years.
Mr Patton said: "We had the shambles of Standard grade which led directly to the most prolonged industrial action by teachers anywhere in Europe. We have systemic problems in 5-14 and schools will be faced in July with five further revisions to a programme which was scheduled to be completed this year.
"And we have continuing difficulties with Higher Still, which plumbed new depths when teachers were recently phoned at home on a Sunday morning to be recruited as markers for this year's exams."
Mr Patton said that schools were "submerged under the bureaucracy of the incomrephensible and discredited chaos of target-setting" which would do nothing to address the real problems of schools and individual pupils.
He continued: "The McCrone committee accuses the Scottish Executive Education Department of being bureaucratic, failing to understand how schools work and pursuing policies which lack in coherence and cohesion. It would be pretty damning evidence of failure if it appeared in an HMI school report."
But Mr Patton said the failure to propose cuts in class sizes was "a missed opportunity". More than any other measure, smaller classes would help social inclusion.