Toast to a youthful classic in a class of its own

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
A beacon of integrity and fairness, yet a merciless chronicler of indiscretions: prime policy movers pay homage to Scotland's education newspaper of record

Lindsay Roy

How good is our TES Scotland? I don't have a copy of The TESS vision and mission statements - if such things exist. So what can I use as benchmarks? HGIOS springs to mind - as does the HMIE charter. Indeed, the underpinning journalistic principles in The TESS match the HMIE standard well. It is fair, open, independent and responsive.

Over the last 40 years, The TESS has retained sound editorial principles and ethical standards. We are not magnetised by sensational headlines nor do we have superficial coverage of educational issues. Comprehensive, balanced and serious treatment of the "things that really matter" ensures its primacy. The TESS is surely the most widely read and respected educational journal in the country. Its editor, reporters and various contributors each in their own way have their fingers on the educational pulse.

The TESS gives prominence to substantive issues, innovative work and good practice. Jotter and the Morris Simpson Diaries help us keep things in perspective and provide that welcome touch of levity. And there are further bonuses: for some colleagues, reading The TESS more than satisfies the 35-hour CPD requirement under the National Agreement. For others, weekly publication signifies that "thank god it's Friday" feeling.

In HGIOS terms then, The TESS must match a 4 - very good. We have not yet moved to the 6-point scale - but we know that it is not "moderate" or (just) "satisfactory". During term time, The TESS is a weighty document, unlikely at present to achieve an Eco Schools Award - but nevertheless it is an ambitious excellent "institution".

Lindsay Roy is President of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland

Matthew MacIver

The TESS is the same age as the General Teaching Council for Scotland. My first recollection of the paper is from the early 1970s when, as a young principal teacher of history, I had persuaded some senior pupils at Craigmount High in Edinburgh to enter the Commonwealth Essay Competition.

I remember going to St Cecilia's Hall and listening to the redoubtable Colin MacLean, the then editor, as he effortlessly organised the awards ceremony. It was a sweet occasion as one of my pupils, now Professor Grant Jarvie of Stirling University, won.

My next contact was not so sweet. Having been asked by Willis Pickard, MacLean's successor, to review of a book of Gaelic memories of the First World War, I produced my literary masterpiece. It was duly published, but I was never asked to contribute to The TESS again. "Sic transit gloria", as we say in Gaelic.

What of the present? The TESS is now Friday morning. I enjoy it. I mildly worry that I am misquoted (it happened once, spectacularly). I sometimes worry that I am going to be attacked in the letters' column (it happened once, spectacularly, because of the previous misquote).

But, in general terms, I regard it as an integral part of the education scene, although I still await the Gaelic column that would befit our educational newspaper. I am, however, pleased that the present editor, Neil Munro, was educated at my own alma mater, the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.

And as we really say in Gaelic: "mealabh ur naidheachd" - congratulations!

Matthew MacIver is registrar and chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Ewan Aitken

The TESS has provided three valuable gifts that enhance my working life.

It brings an opportunity to get a glimpse of the views of both practitioners and other policy-makers' views on the world of Scottish education.

By affording me the opportunity to write for its opinion section, I must step back and think of what I believe to be true about the world, including education.

This contributes to that most precious of political activities: of raising my profile in that educational world for which I have some small responsibility and so opens doors that might otherwise remain shut. It also ensures that others are shut in my face, but I have learnt to live with that.

The TESS is the place of engagement for all whose task it is to nurture young lives, so that we can learn from each other and improve our game.

Thanks to the Diary, it also provides us with helpful gossip with which to maintain that most Scottish of relationship-building tools, the cast-up and the put-down.

Ewan Aitken is executive member for children and families on Edinburgh City Council and education spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Ronnie Smith

It's not so very long ago that The TESS and the Educational Institute of Scotland eyed each other with mutual suspicion. With its ability to give in-depth comment on educational issues which no daily newspaper could match, The TESS aspired to be the weekly education newspaper of record in Scotland.

At the same time, the EIS was running its own in-house news-paper, the Scottish Educational Journal, also a weekly, and was equally keen that the spin we gave to educational events should be the version that teachers and others should more readily accept.

Times changed - but slowly. Increasingly, EIS officials gave guarded comment when approached by TESS journalists and waited with some anxiety for Friday morning to see how they had been reported. Today, we appreciate the good and objective reporting of The TESS - and naturally, we do like to see our name check as often as we can.

We no longer produce a weekly newspaper and concede that The TESS in its current format is the newspaper of record for matters educational in Scotland. As the EIS approaches its 160th anniversary in 2007, we're delighted to say "many happy returns" to the new kid on the block on its 40th anniversary - and, yes, we are still a little nervous about Friday mornings.

Ronnie Smith is general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

Roy Jobson

At a time when much of the press and media have a low reputation with both education professionals and the public generally, The TESS still stands as a beacon of integrity and fairness. It has always been trusted and is decent to those of us who occasionally have to deal with the press.

The ethos of accuracy and honesty is important in an age which seeks sensational reporting and instant solutions. It is refreshing to have an education publication which is measured, yet ready to challenge on the issues of the day.

It has been said that The TESS was mainly read by people looking for jobs and, in that respect, provided a useful service. Perhaps it's a sign of age that I no longer follow the adverts but rely on them to produce good applicants.

Both the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland and my own authority have enjoyed good relationships with The TESS, even when we have disagreed. I have found it supportive and helpful, and, at times, cerebral.

Roy Jobson is director of children and families in the City of Edinburgh Council and president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland.

Tom Kelly

Any subscriber still at home when the Friday post arrives, will know the heavy thwack with which The TESS hits the doorstep. At often nearly two pages per pence, the bulk of The TESS is right up there with the Bible, single-volume editions of Shakespeare, and the telephone directory.

Not that I can do justice to it all. I pass on the opportunity of teaching English as a second language in Shepton Mallet (out goes Jobs 2) and a review of the latest CD Rom on Fermat's Last Theorem for the under-11s.

After our Jack Russell terrier has torn apart the polythene wrapper and given Jobs 1 a good thrashing, it still takes time to find FE Focus. Why the hurry? It's the forlorn hope that for once Neil Munro will have missed your single indiscretion in 20 minutes of background briefing on the latest ministerial wheeze. You just have to know whether the sound bite you now want to chew up and swallow is in print. If you said it, The TESS publishes it.

And what if it is too late to retrieve your little betise? Just hope that this is the week everyone else's Jack Russell chooses FE Focus for a doorstep thrashing.

Tom Kelly is chief executive of the Association of Scottish Colleges.

Gordon Kirk

For 40 years, The TESS has reinforced the integrity of Scottish education without any blasts from the chauvinist trumpet. It has chronicled endlessly changing events and developments, providing all who inhabit the village of Scottish education with up-to-the-minute reports, and it has helped to stimulate public and professional debate by allowing us to ventilate our convictions or even prejudices through its letters.

Above all, The TESS has provided a sustained critique of educational policy. It has commented with impunity on government policy, on the shortcomings of officialdom, on the ineptitude of politicians, on insensitive and ill-judged management, on professional miscalculation and on academic inertia.

And just to make sure we were not being fed too rich a diet of high seriousness, we were able to take pleasure in the musings of the ubiquitous Jotter, whose witty exposure of humbug and pretentiousness sent many a member of the leadership class off for the weekend with a flea in their ear. Long may The TESS flourish.

Gordon Kirk was principal of Moray House College of Education and latterly vice-principal of Edinburgh University.

Peter Peacock

There was a time when I was an avid reader of the print media and I even believed some of what I read. But I am older and wiser now.

I have, however, found myself on occasion actually recommending that new teachers read one part of the media as the most consistently informed, measured and balanced coverage they will get on Scottish education, even if I don't agree with everything written.

I refer, of course, to The TESS, which is essential reading for an education minister. It's almost as important as any government briefing paper - and certainly more interesting. Want to know what the unions are saying? Turn to the news. Want to know about innovative classroom practices? Flick to the features. Want insights into staffrooms? Read the letters.

Communicating what's happening in the teaching profession to the teaching profession - and those like myself with a vested interest - is what makes The TESS such a success. No publication can reach its 40th anniversary without producing a consistently high quality of writing that people want to read.

But The TESS has other benefits too. When Neil Munro accompanied me on a trip to the other side of the world to see educational developments, he fell prey to a condition that put him in a wheelchair: there is no quicker way to get through airports and customs.

Keep up the good work.

Peter Peacock is Minister for Education and Young People.

Judith Gillespie

Ah, where would I be without The TESS? Nowhere, or in some well-paid job are the possible answers. For the paper reaches parts where others do not go, and helped me get actively involved in education.

My first reported skirmish came as a member the Sciennes Parent Action Group, campaigning against Thatcher's cuts in school funding and the shocking condition of our school huts. A public meeting saw me go head to head with our then MP, Michael Ancram. Along with the news report, there was a leader praising the energy of our group, but questioning whether it would last. What a challenge.

From this, it was but a small leap to the first meeting on Michael Forsyth's school boards - a meeting that was so packed that folk actually had to queue to get in the door. This time I hit the big time and featured in Jotter.

Since, then The TESS has been an important player in every campaign. There have been press releases, articles - even a regular column - as well as news reports and the occasional photograph to record the ageing process.

The TESS is the educational community talking and discussing the important matters of the day. It's a required read for anyone, including Ministers, who wants to understand what people think - or where the opposition is.

Judith Gillespie is development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council.

Graham Donaldson

When I started teaching in 1970, The TESS provided my first glimpses of the rather remote and mysterious world of Scottish education beyond my school.

I must confess, however, that its significance as a gateway to promotion was a greater attraction. As time passed, my interest grew in the paper as a reflection of an increasingly exciting world of educational ideas and innovation. I was even moved twice to submit articles which, to my astonishment, were published by the then editor, Colin MacLean.

Throughout the next 30-odd years, The TESS has been a constant companion on my professional journey, providing an important perspective on educational development. Not always comfortable for me personally, but consistently authoritative.

Avoiding being lampooned in Jotter remains a key quality indicator. I continue to be impressed by the integrity of the reporting and the insights of the contributors. The TESS is the educational journal of record and an essential part of the connective tissue in Scotland's educational community.

Graham Donaldson is HM senior chief inspector of education.

Anton Colella

For years, The TESS has been a focus for debate, information and opinion (and a must-read for those looking for new employment). It has carved a reputation for informed, even-handed editorial content, while also providing platforms for arguments and passionate beliefs.

Given our prominence in Scotland's education system, and the roller-coaster ride of our performance in recent years, the Scottish Qualifications Authority has rarely been far from The TESS's scrutiny. Even in SQA's darkest hours, it could be relied upon for accuracy. When criticism was essential, The TESS was there, acting as the voice of the sector. But when setting the record straight about other inaccurate journalistic claims was the priority, The TESS could be counted on to use its authoritative voice too.

Thankfully, the need to critique SQA's performance has receded, but we are never complacent about delivering for Scotland's young people. And we are never complacent about keeping communications channels with The TESS open, as it keeps a watching brief on what we do.

Anton Colella is chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today