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Will this be Labour's seven-year itch?

IF the current preoccupation with primary-secondary transition has led to a revival of interest in 1986's 10-14 report, Labour's manifesto commitment to tackle "consistent underperformance" in any school may prompt ministers to dust down a more recent but perhaps more obscure document.

Improving Achievements in Scottish Schools was published seven years ago in the Conservatives' last full year in power at the end of 1996. Its recommendations provoked the language of "failing schools" and "hit squads".

A task force, set up on the orders of Raymond Robertson, the then education minister, had a specific measure of underperformance - schools were not doing well where at least 25 per cent of pupils did not gain five Standard grades (1-6), against a national average of 11 per cent. At the time, 8 per cent of secondaries, or just over 30, fell into that "failing" category.

Among its 36 recommendations, the report suggested that these schools, perhaps with their associated primaries, should draw up an action plan along with their school boards and education authorities, which should be submitted for approval to HMI. The inspectorate would then publicly report progress at agreed intervals.

If Labour is re-elected after May 1, this is a report that may well be revisited - seven years on.

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