Tame tome

7th April 2000 at 01:00
It has taken almost a year for a reviewer to have a real go at the editors of and contributors to the massive tome, Scottish Education. John Stocks, a former education lecturer at Dundee University, makes up in vitriol for what he lacks in immediacy.

Stocks, writing in the journal Education in the North, diagnoses blandness, which he ascribes to the employment of "gamekeepers rather than poachers" as authors. Referring to the reputation which Walter Humes, one of the editors, gained from his earlier book laying the ills in Scottish education at the door of its leadership class, he concludes: "To a large extent this is a book by the leadership class."

He says that Ivor Sutherland, registrar of the General Teaching Council, makes the "insupportable claim" that professional standardsare "uniformly high". Other chapter writers have given the reader a "PR handout".

For example, Nisbet Gallacher, former head of the inspectorate, states that the HMI have no power - only "influence", which depends on the "quality and credibility of their contribution". Hamish Long, former head of the Scottish Examination Board, claims that the problem of keeping up standards had been solved because there were "expert panels" made up of "markers of proven ability " and "marking of optimum quality".

Among the few contributors praised for good writing is David Raffe of Edinburgh University whose judgment on Scottish education would be, in Stocks's view, suitable for the book as a whole - "a small and enclosed system with a tendency for complacency and self-congratulation."

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