Making an omelette without a crummy filling

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
The news report by Neil Munro (TESS, February 9) is vital. The idea of abolishing HM Inspectorate is not new. R R Rusk proposed it around 1950 with an article claiming inspectors were needed as strike breakers on buses and trams but not in education. Instead he advocated accountability by teachers in schools.

Mike Russell, SNP MSP, probably remembers this from his days running Cinema Sgire in the Western Isles, when he was ethologically well briefed. The SNP part-time andor short contract solution for inspectors can be seen in England where the majority view is that OFSTED has antagonised teachers with little gain.

We have experience in Scotland of short-term contracts for college of education staff and research staff. On a three year contract they spend a year learning the job, a year working well and the final year looking for a new job. Hardly cost effective.

The SNP aim of cutting back on assessment and target-setting is good. How do we graft it on to the Labour aim of "pressure and support"? Labour and SNP curate's eggs may make an omelette.

Both parties should use technology to ensure that there are plans which are supported by full consultation. Labour should require the secretary of the Scottish Executive Education Department to produce a blueprint for education for the next five years.

McConnell has sidelined HM Inspectorate, good populist stuff at present, to show he is a hard man, so it may be more difficult to get a quality product. As a former teacher he should know that you must take out the tough guy in the class, not the weakest, and the others conform.

The Inspectorat was a soft option. He will now have difficulties with the administration who are a UK Civil Service, when he tries to fulfil his pledge to reform the Civil Service, a promise which has been made by many people with commissions, task forces and action groups over the last century and has always failed.

There was clearly strain between the Inspectorate and the administration over the Scottish Qualifications Authority. McConnell backed the stronger one and now an executive agency-type Inspectorate will be able to sit in judgment on the attempts to reform education. They could find allies and have a ball.

When the minister has the blueprint (say) by Easter he should put it on a web site (not a government one, they are crummy), but a free-standing one with links to congruent material and links back to more than just the home page. It should be user friendly with no irrelevant coloured material which merely slows up the printer, and not yet another wodge of inert stodge masquerading as information.

Then the world and his wife can send their views to the site. The administration will process it. Website material must be kept refreshed and integrated if it is to be interactive.

SNP may produce their own website showing inter alia, how four-year-contract active teacher-inspectors will work. Who chooses them - the Civil Service Commission? If not who pays for them - their local authorities? Who grades them to be a team, or is it totally collegiate? How do they relate to Civil Service administrators - with equal authority or as footmen and handmaidens?

Ian Morris Ravelston Dykes, Edinburgh

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