Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, how times have changed – NOT. Election time 10 years ago the SNP was talking about how they would overhaul the education system if they got in to power. I have to say, I haven’t seen a demonstration of any of their original policies in place. And yet we still talk, frequently, about the quality of our teachers, the lack of vacant teaching roles and the number of out of work newly qualified teachers. Well hey, perhaps it’s time to follow some of the suggestions in this column from 10 years ago today…

OH DEAR, oh dear, oh dear. What misguided civil servants pulled together the education element of the SNP’s election manifesto?

It sounds great – on paper. Cut class sizes in the first three years of primary school to 18 or fewer. Scrap school league tables. Build extra classrooms and refurbish school buildings. Hire an extra 2,500 teachers, even.

“We Stand For Education” sets out the principles governing the SNP’s policy choices. The document was doubtless prepared with the best of intentions and the united hope that it would be a vote winner for the Party.

Michael Russell, the SNP’s education spokesman said these principles indicate a “radical new approach to education”.  Radical is necessary, he’s absolutely right there, but an innovative business-minded approach would be far more effective.

“We are determined to take the best in the long honourable Scottish educational tradition,” he said. “And provide the context and investment by which it can flourish again.”

But they’ve kind of missed the point rather, haven’t they? You see, as an entrepreneur who frequently hears the moans of fellow entrepreneurs about the skills shortage threatening our economy, I really had to laugh at the SNP’s pledge to give promoted status to Scottish history and Gaelic education. That will really make a difference to the burgeoning hi-tech sector, won’t it?

I can just imagine the interview scene now. Question: “So, you’re interested in a job as a database programmer? What particular skills can you bring to our company?”   Answer: “Well I can tell you all about the Battle of Bannockburn – in fluent Gaelic.”

It’s nice of them to try and address the problem, but they’ve missed the most fundamental issue facing the Scottish education system and that’s the teachers. Not the quantity, but the quality. Hiring an extra 250,000 teachers wouldn’t mean that our children would receive the best education possible.

It’s much, much more than that. We need to focus on the individuals themselves from an early age, the schoolgirl or boy who decides that they want to be a teacher when they grow up. We need to focus on how their education and motivation is encouraged and supported throughout their school years, the college diploma or university degree, and the teacher training process through which they all must go before being let loose on our little darlings.

We just don’t focus on the crucial personality and character traits that make a good teacher. For a start, the selection process should be much stricter. Getting a few straight As in English, maths and perhaps science too just isn’t enough. What about their skills in creativity? What about their ability to communicate? What about the warmth and encouragement they exude in the classroom? Are they dedicated to educational excellence? Or do they just fancy a reasonable salary and more holidays than they would know what to do with.

Once through the rigorous selection process, the training of our future teachers should be radically overhauled. They should be trained in communication skills. They should understand (not just be taught) how little brains work and learn. They should be encouraged to use their creative right brain just as much as their academic left brain.

They should be passionate about their subject and they should be innovative in its delivery to the bright young things of the future.

And then they should go through another selection process. This time to assess if they have reached the high standard expected of them before they take on one of the most important jobs in the world.

Once in the job, continual assessment of the teachers – not just the pupils – is crucial. And feedback from pupils and parents on the quality of the teachers would be invaluable to that process.

Sure, get rid of the school league tables like Mr Russell suggests. But introduce teacher league tables. If they don’t make they grade, they get relegated – to another post, out with the education system.

We need to get real serious about this. Our future and that of our children and their children depends on these people and I don’t think we give them what they need in order to do the very best by our kids.

Anyway, this high horse is making me a tad saddle sore. Can’t wait to get my teeth into the education policies of the other parties, though!