An open ear

13th June 2003 at 01:00
THE "listening minister" Peter Peacock will be striking a somewhat athletic pose as he hits the ground running while keeping his ear to the ground at the same time. All new ministers, of course, like to start off with a blank sheet of paper, as they review, sift and (often) confirm policies. Mr Peacock is in a slightly different position from his predecessors in that his sheets of paper are heavy with text, not just the educational elements of the coalition agreement such as the abolition of national testing but also the plethora of initiatives and reforms heralded in the previous Executive's response to the education debate.

But, as his TES Scotland interview this week shows (pages 1-3), the new minister is not content just to fill his agenda with somebody else's tablets of stone. He appears to be keenly aware of the importance of not sending out mixed messages, the existence of which has done some damage to otherwise estimable policies such as inclusion. So he will "recast" the guidelines on exclusion while retaining the policy.

This is the mark perhaps of a consummate politician but certainly of a safe pair of hands. Keeping an ear to the ground and his eyes on his hands will require Mr Peacock to become even more athletically supple.

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