School votes for the SNP

30th July 2004 at 01:00
Thank you for setting up a debate among the candidates for the leadership of the SNP.

As a teacher - and someone who has never voted SNP - I should like to press the candidates to develop further some points they have made (and I stress I am writing personally, not as a representative of Renfrewshire Council).

Of the three, only Michael Russell cannot be faced with the challenge of "where's the beef?"

Alex Salmond's big idea of "specialist schools" is simply the vacuous Blair-Adonis one. I'm afraid Alex has spent too much time at Westminster.

It is simply a soundbite. I should like to see him prove me wrong and develop the idea in some depth so that we can see what "specialist schools" might mean.

I am particularly disappointed by Roseanna Cunningham's submission as she is a politician I have long admired. Together with her stumbling performance on BBC's Question Time recently, this makes me fear that her aspiration to high office has made her suppress her convictions and put up a wall of cliches in the hope of widening her electoral appeal.

What is the failure of Scottish education with which she begins and ends her article? Her advocacy of "choice" is serendipitously answered later in last week's TES Scotland by Peter Wilby. Can she develop her argument to show that it amounts to more than keeping the hoi polloi out of good middle-class schools? Additionally, where does accountability of teachers come in? How are local councils failing to implement the teachers'

settlement?

I have indicated that I am impressed by Mr Russell's contribution. I should like him to develop two very promising lines. First, what does he mean by "a big increase in the use of IT integrally in every classroom and subject"? Whatever he may say about his Labour opponents, there has been an enormous growth in expenditure in ICT hardware and software and there has been significant professional development. So, can he take forward his argument within this context?

Second, he has identified a crucial idea about "the decision-making roles and educational responsibilities of government, local authorities and schools". Can he develop this argument?

Alasdair Macdonald Headteacher Johnstone High Renfrewshire

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