RICHARD Allison (Letters, May 11) claims that unionist parties should have concentrated their attacks during the election on a "clear litany of failures, amongst them a once world-renowned education system in disarray". This assertion about the shortcomings of Scottish education has been regularly trotted out during the course of the campaign. Where is his evidence for this claim apart from the recent Pisa figures, which are very limited in what they have to say about performance in our Scottish schools? (It is worth pointing out that such international comparisons only started in 2020. In addition, it is only comparatively recently that national exam results and school leaver destinations have been published. Claims of a previous world-beating reputation for Scottish education are simply anecdotal with no hard evidence to back them up.)

Has Mr Allison examined figures for school attendance or school exclusions? What about leaver destinations, national exam results or the successful integration of pupils with additional needs? Are these really "in disarray"? Does he take any cognisance of the richness of school extra-curricular programmes or the opportunities for community service and work experience? What about the opinions of employer organisations? In my day there were regular complaints from these bodies of pupils not being able to spell or to do simple calculations. Do we still read of these? How many Scottish schools are in special measures? How many Scottish headteachers have been dismissed or disciplined for underperformance or gross misconduct? How many Scottish teachers have been struck off by the General Teaching Council? Has he considered the very positive opinions of pupils and parents consistently recorded in the published school HMIE reports? This is the sort of hard evidence that requires to be interrogated before dismissing the efforts of our teachers and pupils in such a cavalier fashion. Of course, there are difficulties and challenges, but let us remember that schools are working against a background of relentless austerity and a punishing pandemic.

I would encourage Mr Allison and those loudest in their criticisms to visit their local schools. Compared to my early days in teaching the atmosphere now is warm, welcoming, purposeful, supportive and confident. Quite a change from the days when parents and the local community were actively discouraged from setting a foot in the playground without being summoned.

Eric Melvin, Edinburgh.

* I NOTE with interest Nicola Love's column ("Tiktok testing leaks least of kids’ worries", The Herald, May 12). The writer includes a quote from "a teacher friend", describing the burach to hit Scottish education – classroom tests – "a complete and utter clusterf***". Absolutely spot on.

Who would have thought that this could happen? Only those who have never spent a day in a classroom dealing with children other than their own. Take it from one who spent three years teaching music on a Friday in a unit for those with additional needs in Clydebank:

* When a child's life is turned upside down, its normal support systems removed, replaced by unstable and frequently varying conditions, stressed and insecure, the child will be wont to set its own parameters, often resulting in behaviour which does not comply with that expected in the normal school environment.

* That it did not occur to those setting these conditions that our ever-resourceful pupils would employ that device to which they are umbilically connected, the mobile phone, in attempts to bring some order into the chaos, is beyond comprehension.

* To blame the kids for "gaming the system" in the light of recent political events, smacks of complete ignorance and not a small degree of hypocrisy. Politicians please take note: the kids are paying attention ... to every word you say.

Maureen McGarry-O'Hanlon, Balloch.


IN all the expressions of righteous anger from media and political sources concerning the unfolding of the latest tragedies in the Occupied Territories ("Air strikes and rocket attacks leave 28 dead as Gaza violence escalates", The Herald, May 12) there is something missing. The missing element is Israel’s continued illegal and immoral policy of seizing Palestinian land and the forced eviction of Palestinian citizens from East Jerusalem (Al Quds) and large swathes of the rest of the Occupied Territories. Coupled with ongoing harassment of worshippers at Haram al-Sharif (a scandal that has been ongoing for years), the situation faced by Palestinians has become more and more desperate.

One can push a desperate people for only so long before pressure builds. And in the absence of international action (apart from a few platitudes) that pressure has reached critical mass yet again. And we already know what is going to happen. Israel will be made to sit on the naughty step for a while and will leave a broken but proud people to try and rebuild some semblance of civil order. Israel has to become the recipient of action by the international community such as (boycott, divestment and sanctions) otherwise this will happen again. More recruits and martyrs will contribute to the men of violence on both sides. Israel has to take responsibility for the misery inflicted on the people of the Occupied Territories. Israel must be called to account for its breaches of international law and its contravention of civil rights.

Rev John Nugent, Wick.


I UNDERSTAND that there is the Totalitarian principle in quantum mechanics that “everything not forbidden is compulsory” and one distinguished Nobel Prize winner (Gell Mann) has demonstrated this principle in the realm of human behaviour. If that holds true in relation to hugging then I suspect that there may be some, even many, among us on the lookout for a roadmap back to lockdown.

Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.