Marriage must wait

16th October 1998 at 01:00
It would not be diplomatic for the leaders of the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum and the Scottish Council for Educational Technology to rule out the merger proposed in the Government's review of their functions and future. To do so would appear self-satisfied or inward looking. But there are many questions to answer before the Government should think it has the green light for total amalgamation.

Maintaining two "non-departmental public bodies" (as the SCCC and SCET are technically described) where one might do would be inefficient. The technological base to the curriculum across virtually all subjects makes co-operation between the two organisations essential, and it has been growing anyway. But symmetry is not complete. The SCCC has a major role in advising the Government as well as in developing materials. SCET is more of an executive body in a fast changing area where enterprise and latching on to new developments are of prime importance (Online, pages 21-28).

The previous education minister has been critical of the advice he received filtered through the Inspectorate. There is a need for an independent voice, although how far the SCCC is able to diverge from HMI priorities has always been debated. In developing materials, too, there is no clear cut distinction between the SCCC and government itself. The Higher Still Development Unit is certainly bearing the main burden at present.

A decision about merger should be postponed until the new parliament takes over responsibility for education and sets up procedures for examining proposals and cross-examining officials. MSPs are the right forum to consider arguments which at present are summarised at the end of consultative documents and on which views are precipitately requested.

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