Positive debate

29th November 2002 at 00:00
I commend Brian Boyd on trying to revive some of the key recommendations of the 10-14 report (TESS, November 22).

The late David Robertson, chair of the 10-14 working group, believed that the report of his committee had been shelved, though the official line was that it was absorbed into the 5-14 initiative. However, in retrospect, 5-14 was a quite separate attempt to extend the primary curriculum and methodology into the first two years of secondary, an attempt that was ultimately unsuccessful.

When 5-14 was adopted, the experiment with middle schools in Grangemouth was brought to an end. This was an ill-starred venture, the brainchild of the Stirlingshire director of education, James Meldrum. It received only half-hearted backing from the Stirlingshire authority. More seriously, it encountered resistance from the entire educational establishment, from the Scottish Office to the teacher unions.

Each of the middle schools was in effect two establishments, with severe restrictions on the interchangeability of primary and secondary staffs. For it to work at all, provisions of the 1956 Code had to be dispensed with on an annual basis. At the end of the day, hardly anyone had a good word to say for the middle schools, which, in truth had never been given a proper chance.

Yet there has always been a strong case for 10-14 as a stage in a pupil's educational career, spanning the years of puberty and preceding the examination-orientated 14-18 stage. It is unlikely that middle schools will reappear as separate institutions, but the new joint campuses that are springing up all over the place could accommodate 10-14 units.

Jack McConnell seems to have bought into parts of this initiative and he is now backed by a leading and very pragmatic educationist. This could turn out to be one of the most positive outcomes of the national debate.

Fred Forrester Former depute general secretary Educational Institute of Scotland North Larches, Dunfermline

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