I FOUND it fascinating that Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth is quoted as saying that it is wrong not to “ask for something back” from the Government’s investment in teachers (“It’s time to refocus how Scotland approaches teaching in our schools”, The Herald, September 11). As a former teacher herself I thought she would have been more sensitive to the fact that teachers are always the soft target.

Perhaps the key factor the Education Secretary and local authorities must tackle head on if any progress is to be made in schooling is the very one that she and other politicians are so terrified of it is virtually a taboo subject. I refer not to the role of the teacher but the expected role of the parent(s).

I feel that the political risk of losing votes by putting pressure on parents is a constant barrier to educational improvement. Nevertheless the role of parents in education must change.

I consider that the Scottish Government’s written policies and plans on “Early Education and Care” follow the same philosophy as the baby box. They refer mainly in terms about parental entitlement and a range of supported input but nothing about the responsibilities and standards of being a parent in preparing a child to a certain level, psychologically and intellectually, to start school.

I suggest that Jenny Gilruth should refocus on where the threshold of wilful parental neglect rests and considers asking for “something back” from parents.

Bill Brown, Milngavie.

Gilruth call is welcome

THE Education Secretary’s welcome plea for a return to pedagogy in teaching and the teaching profession’s disdain for the absence of content from the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) reported by the Secret Teacher (“So why do teachers call it the Curriculum for Excrement?” The Herald, September 11) seem to be innocuous observations of the obvious in each separate case.

However, taken together these comments may add up to an unchallengeable case for the abolition of the CfE and the creation of a genuine curriculum for Scottish school education. It must be very difficult, in the absence of an informative curriculum, to deliver pedagogical teaching and the move away from pedagogy may have been caused by rather than just have coincided with the onset of the CfE.

The next and seemingly logical development should see the implementation of a content-based curriculum in order to achieve Jenny Gilruth's aspirational pedagogy and the meeting of the profession’s own desire for constructive content.

It is refreshing to see Ms Gilruth’s acknowledgement of the move away from pedagogy and the need for focus in Scottish schools. In recent times such a departure from the party line of perfection in the educational establishment would have been surprising indeed. We need to trust that this is a new normal which will not be stymied by another change of Education Secretary.

Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.

Read more: 'Curriculum for Excellence is flawed... but it's better to embrace it'

Primary failings

I NOTE with no great surprise that, in the piece on Curriculum for Excellence, the Secret Teacher manages to miss that small, often ignored creature when it comes to educational debate, that tiny stuffed elephant in the corner of the room known as the primary school.

It is worth remembering that CfE is the latest in a line of systems going back to the angst caused by the discovery in the early 1980s that pupils in the first two years of secondary schools were not making the sort of progress expected of them. Studying the interface between primary and secondary led to the 5 to 14 curriculum and National Tests, which is to say making primaries more like secondaries and the even more bewildering 3 to 16 where nurseries became more like primaries which became more like secondaries. As might be expected such approaches led to disgruntlement in at least one sector and given the proclivity of education planners for bolting on further unwieldy additions to the curricula eventually collapsed under their own weight. CfE is more of a making secondaries more like primaries approach and, when transitioned into secondaries, coincided with changes to the exam system that ensured that teachers were being pulled in several directions at once. As the tone of the Secret Teacher’s article implies it was almost instantly unpopular.

I feel this is a shame because my experience as a primary teacher was generally positive as the rollout was accompanied by a change of attitude where it was recognised that, in general, teachers do know what they are doing and can be trusted to deliver a curriculum without the need for oppressive oversight. The general principles of CfE, that the purpose of an education system is to produce confident, educated individuals rather than merely results that quickly become fodder for politicians and those with opinions to bat about newspaper columns, are surely those of any forward-looking country. Unfortunately while education continues to be a political football I have no confidence that things will improve. Only when education becomes the subject of consensus rather than division will any progress be made.

Robin Irvine, Helensburgh.

Back in the bad old days

ALEXANDER McKay’s recent contributions to these pages suggest that he is very confused and troubled by the constitutional situation in Scotland. First he makes it very clear that he regards our nation as totally incapable of managing its own government (Letters, September 5), then he yearns for a return to the good old pre-devolution days when our elected representatives did a wonderful job (Letters, September 8).

Those were the days when Scotlandshire was regarded by many south of the Border as a distant recreational area somewhere north of Watford populated by kilted, bagpipe-playing, haggis-eating, caber-tossing gamekeepers and characters who had been written out of EastEnders. Maggie Thatcher had scant knowledge of Scotland and cared even less about it; Tony Blair took great care to conceal his Scottish birth and education; Boris Johnson made no attempt to conceal his contempt for Scotland’s elected representatives.

Perhaps Mr McKay will give his approval to Keir Starmer should he succeed Rishi Sunak as seems likely. The Labour leader’s knowledge and understanding of Scotland and its political and cultural character could be set out in an SMS text message with room to spare and his total disregard for the rejection of Brexit by 62% of Scottish voters, despite the fact that he himself voted to remain, is beyond contemptible. Surely the voters of Rutherglen and Hamilton West will take their inspiration from the late, and sadly missed, Roy Williamson of the Corries who so memorably wrote “but we can still rise now and be the nation again...”.

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.

Read more: Time for Scotland to apologise for its role in slavery

Apology call is irrational

NEIL Mackay's arguments in favour of us apologising for the historical phenomenon of slavery ("It’s now time for Scotland to apologise for its role in slavery", The Herald, September 12) are muddled and irrational.

Of course, as a historical phenomenon, we must abhor the crimes which were some of the worst in the history of humanity. However, to suggest that the people of contemporary Scotland should apologise for wrongs perpetrated more than 200 years before their birth or that this would have any meaning at all, is morally incoherent.

Unless you are a Christian believing in original sin, the concept of guilt as something that can be inherited is simply incoherent. To hold people even in the slightest degree responsible for what their ancestors may have been responsible for at over 10 generations of distance is absurd. Even more so when you consider firstly that the composition of the citizens of a country through immigration and emigration (over 200 years of change) is very fluid and secondly that Scotland (as part of Britain) at the time of slavery was ruled by a small aristocracy in which only a tiny proportion of men (and no women) had the right to vote so that hardly anyone is even descended 200 years later from those who could be said to have some responsibility for slavery.

The attempt to bestow a contemporary national responsibility for distantly historical events relies on the myth, akin to religious ones in its irrationality, of the nation state as a metaphysical personality existing over time in a reality distinct from multiple changing generations of its individual citizens and capable of owning a timeless moral responsibility in that distinction. He may not be aware of it, but Mr Mackay is in his views an adherent of a mystical concept of nationhood consistent with extreme right-wing ideology.

There is something faintly narcissistic in those who believe that their performances of apology can make even the slightest atonement for crimes committed remotely in the past by others and to others with whom they have no moral relationship whatsoever.

Stephen Smith, Glasgow.