28th March 2008 at 00:00
The Curriculum for Excellence debate in the Scottish Parliament last Wednesday seemed to have gathered an impressive crowd. Then Tony Benn arrived, led "time for reflection" and left. So did virtually everyone else.

When Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop launched into her opening address moments after Mr Benn made his exit, The TESS was alone in the press gallery and politicians were thin on the ground.

This was a debate about the challenges facing ACfE, Ms Hyslop explained. And she looked forward to hearing them. Naturally, opposition parties were happy to oblige. Their beefs were: loss of momentum and apparent lack of progress; lack of resources to implement the "radical reforms"; and the cluttered examination system.

An announcement would be made about the changes to the qualifications framework, Ms Hyslop told them, "within the next couple of weeks". (Thanks to last week's TESS, that announcement came sooner than she anticipated.)

As for resources, because of the concordat, that was up to local authorities. Maureen Watt, Minister for Schools and Skills, was critical of those who "berated local authorities for taking decisions at a local level with regard to their education provision".

Ms Hyslop also informed the chamber that 280 schools in 28 authorities had signed up to pilot the full range of learning outcomes and experiences.

Lib Dem MSP Hugh O'Donnell, however, admitted he was having trouble understanding them. The language, he said, "might be clearer" if people outside the profession - including himself - were to contribute.

We wondered how Hugh Henry and Christina McKelvie were coping. During the debate, SNP MSP Ms McKelvie was accused of "using lots of little words" and failing to try "hard words", and Mr Henry, education minister under the old administration, wrestled with a big word - pedagogical (or "pedagological, pedagogi, AHHH!, pedagogical", as he put it).

Thankfully, under ACfE, literacy and numeracy are to be embedded across the curriculum.

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