I HESITATE to suggest any additions to Professor Brian Boyd’s superb “Long Letter” of September 8 (Why is Swinney intent on ignoring advice about education?). However, I would like to add a cautionary note with reference to his comment about Scotland’s “internationally recognised approach to improving learning and teaching called Assessment is for Learning.”

One theme which runs throughout the International Council of Education Advisers’ reports to which Prof Boyd refers is the need for a consistent focus on learning and teaching at all levels of the education system. And as Prof Boyd notes, Assessment is for Learning is key to such a focus.

My caution, therefore, is derived from a passage in the 2015 OECD report “Improving Schools in Scotland”, which notes (p156): “The international research evidence indicates that high-quality formative assessment practices (aka Assessment is for Learning) are more elusive than originally thought, with implementation typically variable, even when teachers have been extensively trained in its use.”

From a decade of experience with a highly experiential teacher training course I can state with some confidence that most experienced teachers (myself included!) have deeply ingrained, intuitive classroom behaviours, many of which contribute to the “elusiveness” of the OECD’s “high-quality formative assessment practices”. So to Prof Boyd’s list of what teachers need I would add intensive, experiential training and regular opportunities for knowledgeable and insightful feedback from peers and expert practitioners, to help them develop the demanding – and often counter-intuitive – skills necessary for effective formative assessment.

To be sure, as Prof Boyd notes, Nordic levels of staffing and social equality, greater focus on play and creativity to a later age, and most certainly lack of central bureaucratic control, are all vital to implementing Curriculum for Excellence and closing the attainment gap. But as the OECD report notes, many classroom studies over the past two decades have confirmed the “elusiveness” of high-quality formative assessment practice. And in my view such practice will only become widespread in Scotland if appropriate, experiential initial teacher training is accompanied by regular expert in-service feedback until the necessary, relevant pedagogical behaviours become so intuitive that teachers are then able to give their full attention to addressing the emotional and learning needs of the individual pupils in their care.

Colin Weatherly
Address supplied

READ MORE: Letters: Why is Swinney ignoring advice about education?

IT’S time we stopped giving the Unionists the benefit of the doubt when it comes to misrepresentation of the powers of our government. Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s column and your headline “The Tories just don’t ‘get’ devolution” (September 12) are too generous.

The Tories and Labour do understand what are our devolved powers and what is retained. These apparent howlers are actually deliberately misleading. We could put down the first mistake to a misunderstanding or a lack of homework. But the repeated statements have to be deliberate. That’s how ideology works: the “big lie”. Sometimes it is by omission, as when the BBC fail to report the different statistics relating to NHS Scotland. People are expected to assume the same applies to Scotland. Sometimes there are extraordinary claims that the Scottish Government is not doing something they are not empowered to do.

We can only confront these attempts to mislead by recognising them for what they are: a manipulation of the complex reality involved in devolution.

Cathie Lloyd
Letters, Lochbroom

READ MORE: The UK Government's devolution ignorance will unravel the Union​

ONE has to admire the bare-faced gall of the Scottish Whisky Associations attempt to spin a line that the Scottish people share its view that the Scottish Whisky Industry is overtaxed ( Scots feel UK ‘must do more’ for whisky, September 11).

The reality is that our most of our whisky industry (excluding the small-scale, niche distilleries) is owned by and run for the benefit of large multinationals, and is one of the most profitable and lightly taxed industries in the UK.

It is not in terms of its turnover-to-tax ratio in the same scandalous scale as Google or Amazon, but “the” whisky industry (its sure as hell not “ours” at this time) is in the rudest of health and relatively lightly taxed to boot.

Broadly speaking, for every five pounds of turnover, three pounds is clear profit. For comparison, consider supermarkets: to generate three pounds profit, their turnover is at least ten time that.

I look forward to the day when Scotland’s big political party, of which I am a member, is prepared to at least examine the feasibility of leveraging some, only some, of that clear profit into the Scottish public purse.

Bill Ramsay
Address supplied

READ MORE: Scots feel UK ‘must do more’ for whisky, finds new poll​