She's not listening;Letter

26th February 1999 at 00:00
YOUR editorial, "Stopping the rot" (TESS, February 19), together with your report on Helen Liddell's views about the Scottish Association of Teachers of Language and Literature, made interesting reading. I attended the first meeting of SATOLL, and there is no doubt in my mind that one of the main forces driving 150 teachers of English to meet on a Saturday afternoon in February was a reaction to a lack of democracy.

Your editorial commented that teaching unions sent misleading signals to "decision-makers". True. Equally true is the fact that English teachers told the unions about their misgivings, only for these points to be ignored, in the same way that these points were swept aside in the in-service days on Higher Still English.

Mrs Liddell was reported as saying she refused to be bounced into changes based on the activities of a very small number of people. Fair enough - except that 2,000-plus English teachers are to be "bounced" into changes based on the activities of a very small number of people - those who made up the Higher Still committee, answerable to no one in the profession. They knew best because they are - well, not practising teachers, actually. Reasonable assumption? Democratic?

Ron Tuck, of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, has said openly that the consultation process was flawed. Yes, it was, but not really in the way that he meant. What was flawed about it was that it was not consultation, but imposition.

The parliament of Scotland will provide the answer. "Decision-makers" will be open to scrutiny in public committee. No more deals in (non)-smoke filled rooms, no more pals in union offices smoothing the Government's path (is that really what teachers pay union dues for?), no more treating the profession with what can only be described as contempt.

English was always going to be very difficult to "Scotvecify", given the nature of the subject and the attitudes of the classroom professionals, and the system managed to make a dog's dinner of the whole affair.

All they needed to do was to ask and listen. Simple.

Stuart Patterson Willowbrae Avenue Edinburgh

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