Peacock's spoonful of sugar

25th February 2005 at 00:00
It shows the topsy-turvy world that politicians have sometimes to inhabit that news of the rise in the number of pupil exclusions last session triggered a welcome from the Education Minister (page four). Of course, it does Peter Peacock's credentials with teachers no harm to show he is happy to contemplate the exclusion of pupils and is not therefore entirely thirled to the "inclusion" mantra.

And he lost no time in reminding his political opponents that the latest figures are the result of what they had always demanded, releasing headteachers from the tyranny of exclusion targets - even if this was overturning a policy the Executive had invented, somewhat triumphantly, in the first place.

The SNP and Conservatives, inevitably, accentuated the negative - arguing, respectively, that smaller classes and a higher number of permanent exclusions (which are down 40 per cent) would help improve matters. These exchanges show what a raw nerve discipline touches in the political firmament, which is good news for teachers - providing concern turns concrete.

This Executive certainly cannot be faulted for the long hours and hard cash it has devoted to this subject. Impatience is the hallmark of political activity these days and the appearance of a policy or cash is supposed to wish away problems overnight. It may be no particular comfort for teachers this week, but policies take their time. Of course, if the medicine is wrong in the first place, that's another matter.

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