Parents and teachers taunt 'Tory' Labour

3rd May 1996 at 01:00
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council has told Helen Liddell, Labour's education spokeswoman, not to "dance to the Tory agenda".

The council's executive met last weekend and concludes that Labour should not waste energy and resources on value-added league tables to prove all schools are essentially the same. Once social differences are taken into account, there is little difference between schools, the council maintains.

Warning that the party's education manifesto "is an English document wearing a tartan skirt", it argues: "Many of the 'problems' are English problems: the obsession with failing schools and bad teachers has come directly from the OFSTED reports and Chris Woodhead's statements. While it would be wrong to be complacent about Scottish education, these are certainly not high profile issues here."

The council notes that Labour is proposing several initiatives which are already in place, such as annual staff reviews, staff development profiles and distance learning. On the question of resources it states: "If this is a 10-year programme, then this should be clearly stated."

A matter of particular regret is the omission of any reference to the need to cut class sizes in the first years of primary.

The council agrees with proposed focus on individual pupils but is sceptical about the term "compact". "There cannot be compacts or contracts when a service is compulsory. Moreover, it is inevitable that the terms of such an agreement will be dictated by the school." .

The proposal to have parent advocates is rejected in favour of home-link teachers and better relationships between parents and class teachers. However, the council concedes there may be a role for trained mediators to step in if relationships break down at school.

The response adds: "Although school boards are less than brilliant, there is no point in antagonising board members just for the sake of it. The problem with boards is that they are 'imposed' on schools and to replace one imposed system with another is not helpful. Moreover, all these other worthy people, suggested as members of the 'school commission', will not have the time to attend. At present, many boards find co-opted members the least useful. "

The council recommends that Labour should look at ways of making boards cheaper to run, widening their membership and resolving the relationship with parent-teacher associations. School commissions would not bring school and community closer together. "Accountability is bullshit," it states.

The SPTC agrees that schools should set targets and backs supported study schemes. However, "there is an argument for extending the school day for all and building in study periods".

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