Labour's guilty past;Letter

29th January 1999 at 00:00
THE SHOCKING report on standards of achievement in Scotland's schools was entirely predictable. Labour attempts to blame the Tories are nonsense as it is Labour councils which have in reality run our schools for decades, and any serious attempts by Tory governments to change the system were repeatedly met by all-out opposition from Labour and the Educational Institute of Scotland.

For too long we have listened to "trendy" experts who advocated informality and "free expression" in the classroom. Many of these "experts" themselves quit the classroom at the first opportunity. Indiscipline is rife in the state sector, unlike the private domain where there are sanctions which work, and matters will not improve until meaningful action is taken.

Children need to be taught in classes where there is a similar ability spread. Mixed-ability throws an impossible burden on teachers who inevitably neglect - through no fault of their own - either the top, middle or bottom group, as they cannot deal with all at once.

In the 1960s, the "high-fliers" were able to progress at their own rate, with undivided attention, just as the poorest academically were nurtured by a caring teacher who coaxed progress from them, albeit slow. The latter left school with the necessary basic reading, writing and counting skills, which is often not the case now.

But of course the "cooncillors" were offended and the system fell by the wayside. We need a change of direction if standards are not to decline further.

Gordon Lind Irvine Crescent Coatbridge

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