Open letter to Jack McConnell

27th April 2007 at 01:00
Dear First Minister

Unfortunately, I won't be able to vote for you this time. Before you think it's fickle of me and that I'm changing my mind as much as, well, your average politician, the issue is this notion of raising the school leaving age to 18. Come on, Jack, who thought that lulu up? I can't believe it was you; after all, you did once train as a teacher and even spent some time at the chalkface.

I have found time to do a bit of studying in the area of education, so this is not a knee-jerk reaction. I know there are certain conditions, like only staying on if they haven't got a job or training or further education or something. But I am not sure that your solution, to keep youngsters who have no wish to be in school in school, is sensible.

I know you're a politician and you need to be waxing on about initiatives and world-class systems and so on, but you need to think more about the needs of these young people and not about what is politically expedient. It would seem perfectly obvious to me that the one thing they do not need is to be kept at school for two years when they don't want to be there.

I know my next point, that is the effect which such a change will have on teacher morale, will not get much sympathy from you or from any politician.

But I do think it is something which needs to be considered. Some research which I undertook recently, Jack, indicates fairly clearly that teachers are not in the loop when it comes to decision-making. But they are in the loop when it comes to voting and maybe, just maybe, decisions like this will have an impact on how people will vote.

You would be amazed at the number of classroom teachers who actually think about what they are doing and who could make a valid contribution to the debate on many of the initiatives which are imposed on them. But they don't get the chance, do they?

Tom Greene St Ambrose High, Coatbridge

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