Ethos v rationality;Letter

25th June 1999 at 01:00
THE REPORT "Ethos 'torn apart' by HMI" (TESS, June 4) and the associated leader are just one manifestation of the politics of Scottish schooling which demand further analysis.

Bill Ball and his staff at Cramond primary school have discovered that there is a difference between being the winner of last year's ethos award and being the focus of a critical HMI inspection.

With the emphasis now on knowledge-based economies there is much greater state intervention in knowledge-based organisations such as schools. Teachers' work is being redefined by government, with HMI as the agency charged with implementing the perceived necessary changes.

Teacher value systems can be seen to be challenged by reforms which lead to overriding emphasis on economic and vocational goals, a technical-rationalist approach to educational performance and measurement of that perfomance, coupled with a need for compliance.

The heart of Mr Ball's reported comments lies in contestable values, that is ethos versus techno-rationalist outcomes.

The school malaise syndrome could become manifest, whereby the most fundamental professional values of teacher are at odds with a central government agenda for schools.

I do not believe we have reached that stage but it is a legitimate topic for debate and scholarly analysis.

Warwick Taylor

Faculty of Education

Moray House Institute

Edinburgh University

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