No wonder there is National confusion

2nd March 2012 at 00:00

It was a rough week for education secretary Michael Russell. Not only did he have to deal with the ongoing repercussions of East Renfrewshire's decision to delay sitting the new National exams; he had to face the rancour and confusion of parents and teachers on Radio Scotland's Call Kaye show (page 34). It's difficult to say which was the tougher call, but so far he has weathered the storm.

Things have settled down a bit, but the whole saga is riddled with contradictions. First, everyone is told they have to sit the new exams in 2014 except for a single department "in exceptional circumstances", then East Renfrewshire is told all its schools can delay by a year. Second, its education director, John Wilson, claims he raised his concerns about CfE with the powers that be in 2006, and that's denied by HMIE and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (page 5). Third, an Education Scotland spokesman states one week that "every school on 2+2+2 (curriculum model) is going to be encouraged to change" and "supported out of that position" (10 February), and then his boss, Bill Maxwell, states: "I'm not seeking to impose one particular model on them" (TESS Interview, page 16). No wonder people are confused.

The key point the policymakers are trying to stress is that 3-18 is a continuum; that the "learner journey", as they call it, is more important than the exams. Try telling that to parents who want to see their children coming out of school with good results for university, college, or whatever. A compromise or clarification over the two curriculum models does appear to be on the horizon, but compromise over the exam dates looks unlikely.

However disgruntled Scottish teachers may be feeling, it's worth casting an eye down south to see what's going on there. Westminster education secretary Michael Gove's signal that he intends to introduce performance-related pay is a salutary reminder of how much worse things are in England (page 10). Deregulation is the name of the game there, whether it's teachers' pay or the type of schools or the routes into teaching. Most of these have little significance for Scotland, but when it comes to the demise of the General Teaching Council for England and ending of the national regulation of professional standards, that's another matter (News Focus, pages 12-15).

Anthony Finn, chief executive of GTC Scotland, has serious concerns that it will be easier for undesirable teachers to find their way into Scottish schools because there may be no English record of any incompetence or disciplinary procedures. So the GTCS is tightening up its own regulations, so that all applicants to work in Scotland may be required to sign legal disclaimers. Forget devo-max and the independence referendum in 2014 - stricter border controls are going up now, in April 2012.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor of the year (business and professional). gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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