More could be better;Letter

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
OVER THE years Scottish education has had a number of naked emperors paraded before it to show off their sartorial elegance, or lack of it - individualised maths schemes spring quickly to mind. I get the feeling it is about to happen again.

Your editorial, "The Class Divide'', (TESS, June 11) appears to accept, uncritically, Douglas Weir's ideas about the benefits which would accrue from reducing the number of teachers an S1 or S2 pupil would face in a secondary school. If this is an attempt to promote debate on the subject then I applaud your effort, but I am worried that it could be seen as reinforcement of an established fact - and I am far from convinced that the fact has been established.

Primary 7 teachers do a valiant job in teaching all subjects, but there is growing evidence that more is being asked of them than they can cope with. In small, rural schools there is not yet an alternative to having one teacher teaching everything. The existence of that pedagogical style is evidence that it is needed but not, necessarily, that it has greater virtue.

The point of having larger, secondary schools is to provide the specialist teaching that primary schools can not. There was an experiment with middle schools which tried to provide a compromise but has disappeared quietly.

A survey of S1 and S2 pupil opinion in the school I teach in, revealed no concern among pupils that they are meeting too many teachers. On the contrary, many of them expressed the view they enjoy seeing a variety of teachers.

I believe Douglas Weir's proposition needs to be explored further. What evidence is there that poorer quality teaching will be counterbalanced by increased contact between individual pupils and teachers? Are the suggested benefits universal or are only a proportion of our children likely to gain and, if so, who are they? Let us have some evidence, not ill-supported assertion repeated so often that it gains credibility.

Graham Souter

Buchan Place, Fraserburgh

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