Peter Peacock was relaxed and confident in his TESS interview, and seemed to mean it when he said: "I'm really pleased to be back."
He believes there is cause for "considerable optimism" in the future of Scottish education. Looking back on the situation when he was the deputy education minister under Sam Galbraith, he recalled:
* Relations between the unions and education authorities had collapsed with the former Scottish Office taking "the strange view" that it had no part to play.
* Continuing professional development was "very clearly" a weak part of the system.
* Probationers were poorly treated.
* There was talk of the need to stimulate a national debate.
* No strategy existed for school buildings although the "colossal backlog" of repairs was recognised.
* The role of the Parliament in education was unclear.
* There were no explicit national priorities.
* Parents had to fight to get their children into mainstream classes.
* Three and four-year-olds had no guarantee of a right to education.
"How different things look now," Mr Peacock observed.