DYLAN Wiliam, emeritus professor of educational assessment at University College London, once said of teachers: “If you’re not failing on a daily basis, you’re just not paying attention.” Perhaps, on that basis he might cut the Education Secretary John Swinney some slack.

What Mr Swinney, or at least the officials for whom he is responsible, appear to have succeeded in doing is inappropriately citing Mr Wiliam’s work in support of the controversial policy of P1 assessments. The “teaching guru”, who has an enthusiastic following, goes so far as to accuse the Scottish Government of a “substantial and perverse misrepresentation” of his work.

Such strong words add an almost poignant air to the fact that the Scottish Government seems to regard Mr Wiliam highly. So much so that, in a reply to the Scottish Liberal Democrats about which experts supported the introduction of P1 assessments, his name was mentioned prominently in terms of his support for “formative assessment”. His particular interest here is in having teachers provided with feedback about pupil performance. But he states categorically that he does not believe the planned Scottish national assessments to be capable of providing that information. Previously, he has spoken about teachers and pupils working together as partners, which was not to be confused with “grading”.

All of which will surely have the Scottish Government wincing as its education committee prepares to discuss the controversial policy today. Irrespective of the case to be made for P1 assessments, if there’s a lesson in this episode for the Scottish Government it is to be very careful in mentioning work or views, either inaccurately or out of context, when trying to bolster a policy.

Mr Wiliam added of his view about necessary failing that it made teaching the best job in the world “because you never get any good at it” and were challenged daily. Whether that is also applicable to education officials remains open to question.