No substitute for skilled practitioners and advisers

15th August 2003 at 01:00
Thank you for your continuing news about, and perhaps still more your wonderful back page spoof a few weeks ago on, the process of "saving" principal teachers by the amalgamation of subject areas.

For what it's worth, allow me to support presages of discomfort from my now long since, but hopefully still relevant, experience of something similar.

I was appointed to a working party under the old Scottish Examination Board. The aim was to present suggestions for an O grade in creative and aesthetic subjects. The members were drawn from art, music, dance and drama.

I was made chairman possibly because my ineptness at all four might have predicted impartiality.

We had a very happy and ultimately totally unprofitable several years. It's from some of the intractable problems, impossible to solve even with enormous goodwill, that I think with sympathy of the principals soon to be launched into these uncharted waters.

To start, we found that the terminology in different subject areas did not easily transfer. Sometimes a phrase in one meant just about the opposite in another. More often, the words used in one conveyed nothing whatsoever to others.

Secondly the methods of assessment, and any assurance of their validity, repeatedly caused headaches arising from late-night sessions which vainly hoped to reconcile them.

Now all this was pursued in easeful surroundings - no hosts of weans were hammering at our door. Nor were the subjects involved the wide worlds apart that some of the proposed amalgamations might be - if "management" is the all important virtue.

For me there is not and there cannot be any substitute for skilled practitioners in a subject, backed by informed and trusted education authority advisers (an extinct breed) delivering for the good of Scottish education whose first concern ought to be the well being of the pupils.

John Taylor Woodland Grove, Kilmarnock

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