This time it's the final option

IDEALLY you should start a column with something snappy. I am going to be talking about a Scottish Executive consultation (yawn) of which there have now been 455 completed (double yawn), all of which can be accessed on the consultations section of the Scottish Executive website. Bar one.

The magnificently-titled Consultation on Review of Assessment within New National Qualifications, which closed on December 20, has up and gone. The elephant that squeaked has done a runner.

Dismayed, I phoned the Scottish Executive Education Department. My inquiries have revealed that 10 weeks after Cathy Jamieson's decision on the review, (no change to the status of internal assessment in Higher Still, but plenty of infernal tinkering), some kind of report is to be published. Teachers sunning themselves in Ulan Bator or Ullapool will not be able to inspect the actual submissions online, though: they will have to travel to the archives in Edinburgh.

None of which should surprise. The late Tony McManus wrote to the minister way back in January to ask what weighting was to be given to union views, and why no copies of the consultation had been sent to individual teachers. The reply was that it was a consultation and not a ballot. Subtext: ballots you have to count, consultations you can fiddle.

And so it came to pass. The results were put out to "independent analysis". Reason: "Because we quite often do that."

This anonymous analyst then suggested that since the majority of the respondents favoured neither option A nor option B, the status quo should be broadly retained. Yet one of the respondents which most emphatically favoured option A was the Educational Institute of Scotland. Nevertheless the views of its 17,000 secondary members, its 52,000 total membership, counted for little. For the view of the largest union equals that of one headteacher or one school student or one wee business.

And so in Scotland we have an administration that believes in proportional misrepresentation. When we hear the words "consultation" and "independent", why is it that "pinch" and "salt" spring to mind?

As Graham Dane indicated in these columns two weeks ago, the issue is now set to go forward to an EIS special executive meeting on September 6. Boycotting mandatory internal assessment in Higher Still will be the only item on the agenda. When teachers find their collective voice is muted or ignored, then their sole resort is collective action.

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