It was 30 years ago . . . wasn't it?

6th January 2006 at 00:00
his January, there is no report on the release of 30-year-old records from what was the Scottish Education Department. Under freedom of information laws, journalists and the public can now access more or less any files they like, so ministers have scrapped the new year tradition of releasing the best of the thousands of dusty files. We regret this.

An annual recall of events from official documents acted as a political and social mirror. Over the decades, many similar issues recurred, such as rising indiscipline, what to do about non-academic pupils, disputes about the teaching of reading and how to ensure a regular supply of teachers( especially in Glasgow) - even the unreliability of teachers' classroom assessments.

It is only 30 years ago that our present comprehensive system was emerging fully after a torrid beginning. Many in high places did not want to see selection and streaming in "good schools" scrapped. They were educationally wrong, as history has shown.

Perhaps the most outstanding change reflected in the records is the way schools regarded children. Even as relatively recently as the 1960s and 1970s, today's teachers, the majority of whom grew up then, will remember being beaten in mainstream schools with Lochgelly leather. In the many special and residential schools, the records, largely from then unpublished inspectorate reports, highlight brutal correction regimes which abused children regularly. The records are a reminder that we should not forget what often goes on in the name of education.

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