Prudence - again

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Last week's parliamentary education committee made excellent theatre.

Graham Donaldson, head of the inspectorate, was summoned with top mandarins to tell MSPs why the Education Minister should have more powers over education authorities and schools.

Well, at least those in the know knew it was Graham Donaldson. But the parliamentary monitor that insisted he was actually Colin Reeves, head of the schools division, must have confused MSPs - though not, of course, Rhona Brankin, Labour backbencher and former minister who is Donaldson's sister-in-law (an interest she has to declare formally every time they meet - presumably only in public).

Brankin has other preoccupations these days, as she battles to persuade the Labour machine that runs Midlothian Council not to carry out its planned school closures. This made her stray a bit from the ministerial powers Bill as she indulged in some creative thinking. Could it be used to prevent councils closing rural schools?

"Not within the scope of the Bill," replied a bemused Reeves.

"Not a matter for inspection," said brother-in-law.

"Not worth the effort" seemed to be the general response of MSPs as they adopted an air of scepticism about why Peter Peacock wanted his Bill - especially since Donaldson said that HMI is getting on famously with the education authorities.

Peacock was giving evidence this week as we went to press so the committee may have a better idea by now.

The best HMI's chief could muster was to describe the measure on several occasions as "prudent". Now, where have we heard that before?

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