ALTHOUGH agreeing with much of what Dr Michael Gregson states, I feel he should not hold his breath regarding the current reform of education consultation (“Rebranding same old qualifications is not the answer for our schools”, The Herald, October 26).

Having read the appropriate support papers, I doubt the so-called education consultation can actually account for using that term accurately. If the people charged with informing this hoped-for “reform” are already chosen because they include “those for whom qualifications matter most” and "those who offer qualifications”, they appear to have already adopted the long-established top-down structure not too divergent from school sports day competitions.

I suggest that consultations very often predetermine the parameters of the solution and the current one from the Scottish Government, “Review of the future of qualifications and assessment: consultation on options for change”, seems to me to be no exception. If we continue to put our emphasis on attainment through systems of measuring pupil performance, I doubt if we will notice any significant reform. My own view is that too many stakeholders in academic supremacy are hungry to preserve schools as cloning factories to feed higher education.

We simply cannot pretend to embrace the philosophy of child-centred education and then turn up one day with an externally-calibrated measuring stick to classify them for life and hence potentially create damaged adults. I consider that the humiliating consequences of being told where they are in the pecking order has affected generations of pupils. Even the term "blotting your copybook" has entered our vocabulary.

Instead, pupils should be encouraged to self-assess and learn from their own identification of mistakes. Modern technology and programmed learning software facilitates this type of development with teacher guidance and moderation. I suggest that unless we move radically away from the binary assessment of levels of success and failure we will end up with a society in which pernicious intellectual apartheid thrives. Are we too late?
Bill Brown, Milngavie

• ANYONE wondering why Scotland and the UK has a skills shortage, especially in terms of "hard subject" graduates, needs only to look at the graduate list from Edinburgh Napier University. Around 100 degrees, more than 600 graduates, the vast majority of whom seem to be foreign and the local kids seem to prefer criminology, psychology and sports management.

I looked to see what job vacancies there are in psychology in Scotland. Around 40, almost all in the public sector. There are five criminology vacancies, all lectureships.

Did these kids or their parents think of the career prospects before saddling themselves with a student loan?
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven

Willie Ross's legacy is secure

IT is not often current newspaper articles can bring back memories from five decades and more. Russell Leadbetter's piece on Willie Ross did just that for me ("‘Gruff, unimaginative, loyal and extraordinarily effective’: Remembering Labour’s Willie Ross", Herald Magazine, October 22). As a civil service trainee I was a junior member of the Highland and Islands Development Board Bill team. As a learning experience it was a real eye-opener. The debates, particularly in the Lords, showed how remarkably feudal the Highland aristocracy were. "Are you trying to bring people to the Highlands?" is just one example of what we faced then.

It is hard to think of any current minister – of whatever party – who could match Willie Ross's severe restrictions on any digression from the behavioural norms expected from ministers or their service assistants. For example, ministers were expected to separate their ministerial duties from their political commitments. Official cars could not be used as convenient modes of personal transport. If that meant a minister's official duties finished at an inconvenient time or place, he/she was obliged to arrange his/her own way to their personal destination – home or political meeting.

Unfortunately his devotion to getting as much for Scotland from the UK Government was not always successful. He argued hard in Cabinet to get the Royal Mint and DVLA for Scotland and to get a knighthood for Jock Stein after Celtic won the European Cup. It is difficult to know which of these failures hurt him most.

There are many stories about Willie Ross but his legacy is secure in today's world. Can anybody better express proper patriotism than his renowned remarks on "nationalism is for Hampden and Murrayfield" quoted in the article? Every word he said then is still relevant today and as accurate for today's political scene.

If any deluded separatist thinks he did not appreciate the necessity of keeping Westminster sensitive to Scottish demands they should reflect on his remarks when learning of Winnie Ewing's victory in Hamilton: "That will give me an extra lever in Cabinet."
LDM Mackenzie, Duror, Argyll

Losing faith in the civil service

THANK you for your article regarding expired driving licences ("900,000 drivers risk fines over old licence pictures", The Herald, October 24, and Letters, October 26). Excuse me for being old-fashioned and depending upon our Welsh-speaking DVLA, but I received no letter, as previously, alerting me to the oncoming doom of a £1,000 penalty.

The DVLA website tells us that "the expiry date of your photocard licence is shown on the front of the photocard at section 4b. If your licence has expired, you should not drive until you have applied to renew the licence. Although the DVLA routinely send out reminders to drivers, it is not a defence to say that you did not receive a reminder.

"If more than two years has passed since your driving licence expired, you may be made to retake your driving test in order to get a new licence."

I checked my licence, it was out of date. No reminder had been received and in an old-fashioned belief in our civil service, I feel let down, but not surprised, when even the once over-bureaucratic but dependable system reminded law-abiding citizens of their duties. And all this despite many recent strikes about ... whatever.

Peter Wright, West Kilbride

Browned off

EACH autumn I always think that God (or is "gods" more PC?) has a sense of mischievous humour. Why else would he give rotting fallen leaves the same colour as dog poo?
Bryce Drummond, Kilmarnock


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