Prejudice and snobbery continue

21st February 2003 at 00:00
More money is undeniably being made available in Scottish education. For instance, I'm overjoyed that after years of "wind and watertight" maintenance, school buildings are beginning to look like a suitable place for children and staff.

Yet all the welcome initiatives remain less than fully exploited because of two major faults in the infrastructure. Both would have been remediable if the incoming Labour, sorry new Labour, Government had had the political courage we might have expected.

The first would have been to scrap the placing requests legislation. No proper planning can take place unless authorities can look ahead free of the vagaries of parental choice - a choice so often based on misconception, prejudice and snobbery.

How devastating to read estate agents' remarks on the proximity of their properties to "good" schools, and how tragic to read of parents (even expectant ones) shifting home to get near to these reputed establishments.

And the costs to "victim" schools, a cost carried on into councils'

budgets, are materially and psychologically immense.

The second? I well remember, as convener of the Church of Scotland's committee on education and as chairman of the Forum on Scottish Education, going along to meeting after meeting with just about every non-governmental organisation convened to try to withstand the dismemberment of the regional councils. Our opposition was based on educational grounds - just as the Government's was on putative, eventually frustrated, grounds of electoral advantage.

There has been a loss of economy of scale; there appears to be, perhaps only to someone like me, a proliferation of administrative appointments.

The needs of the most vulnerable, often very expensive to meet, are hard to satisfy.

Police and fire services were exempted from the carve-up. Education should have been dealt with similarly. Or does it suit the Scottish Executive to divide and rule over the fragments?

John Taylor

Woodland Grove, Kilmarnock

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