Stopping the rot;Opinion;Leading article

19th February 1999 at 00:00
THE LITANY OF complaints from the staffroom which we carry this week (page 15) should come as no surprise to any teacher or observer of the education scene. But the depth and extent of the disaffection it reflects is a deeply depressing testimony to the quality of the management of the education service.

It can only be an indictment of educational leadership to hear a teacher say: "I've been teaching for 23 years. I would consider myself motivated and enthusiastic. And my intention is get out, if I possibly can." The secondary involved is necessarily anonymous but, we believe, representative. So what chance now for the Government's educational ambitions? For many teachers, "reform" reflects harassment rather than progress.

The issue is only partly about pay and working conditions. It is about a profession which feels it is constantly having things done to it without the sense of ownership which is said to be at the heart of good management practice. Schools are constantly urged to give their pupils praise and recognition, set "realistic but achievable targets", hand out accolades for achievement, encourage participation at all levels and surround themselves with a positive ethos. For teachers however, brickbats rather than bouquets often seem the order of the day. This is a 20-year legacy which has its roots in England and has been deepened by the perception that new Labour has stolen its predecessor's clothes. As a result there are huge expectations of the Scottish parliament - realistic but perhaps unachievable, to coin a phrase. Perversely, however, the Higher Still and 5-14 programmes may have come to the rescue. They are likely to be the last of their kind. When the chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority repeats his partial mea culpa of last November (in the current edition of the Scottish Educational Journal) that classroom teachers were insufficiently consulted and involved over Higher Still, lessons are clearly being learnt.

But lessons need to be learnt by the unions too. Their early consent to the principles and practice behind Higher Still clearly sent decision-makers misleading signals.

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