The caring aspects of education are being overlooked in the ceaseless quest for improved examination passes and higher achievement, the principal of St Andrew's College told Edinburgh heads on Tuesday.
Professor Bart McGettrick said it was up to headteachers to reconcile those tensions but urged them to realise that "caring for students and staff is at the heart of raising standards". Quality assurance had become so preoccupied "with the means by which we educate that we are in danger of losing sight of the ends".
In an almost evangelical address, Professor McGettrick said: "Teachers should be witnesses for something of value to which children could look up . . . they have an absolute duty to be optimistic because they are in the ministry of hope."
An effective curriculum paid attention to how pupils learnt. "We are rather better in Scotland at developing teaching styles, but we need to care for individual children in a world of abandonment for so many of them."
He identified four "balances" to be struck in raising standards: change and stability, teacher happiness and serious professional concern, personal growth and corporate development, the present and the future.