Scottish School Reforms praised by International Council of Education Advisers


The advisers said:

‘We can see clear and positive momentum in Scottish education, particularly in relation to the devolution of more power and resources directly to schools. We strongly support the principles underpinning these changes as it is important they are designed to improve education, rather than being structural change for its own sake.’

They then went on to make three suggestion to build on the progress so far. They:

  • Made suggestions about to how put learning and teaching at the heart of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives to ensure they provide the right level of support and expertise to schools
  • Put forward ideas about how to increase and deepen collaboration, including ensuring students and parents are engaged and have a voice
  • Highlighted opportunities to create new professional pathways to inspire and build leadership at all levels in Scottish education

I’ve previously expressed reservations about too much change in school education but hopefully this initiative will be more effective and less disruptive than previous ones given its emphasis on devolving power and control of resources to schools and school leaders.


5 thoughts on “Scottish School Reforms praised by International Council of Education Advisers

  1. Alasdair Macdonald September 22, 2017 / 4:36 pm

    I spent just short of 40 years in education, a period in which there was massive change in Scottish education. My view, now at some time distance both as a teacher and as a parent, is that schools are markedly better now than they were when I was a pupil 50s/60s and when I started my career, 1970. I think that the recent publication celebrating 50 years of comprehensive education shows that. Of course, everything is not perfect and there has to be continuous change to adapt to the times, to new technologies, to the relationships amongst children/parents/teachers.

    You are right that too much change at any one time is difficult to sustain and takes its toll on teachers, who eventually complain via their unions. I did that on several occasions.

    I think the most debilitating change was the ‘compliance’ agenda and target-setting regime which began in the mid-90s. Ostensibly, it was to ensure that all children, no matter where they were in Scotland, were guaranteed a reasonably good school experience. Given the fact that public money is being spent this is a justifiable aim. However, I think that the real aim was to cow and control the teaching force; it was to stifle creativity. The teachers’ industrial actions during the 70s and 80s alarmed the authorities. On the whole, the public had been supportive of teachers and, the ‘compliance’ agenda was to drive a wedge between teachers and parents. This was not just a Scottish phenomenon. Schools elsewhere in the UK faced similar issues. In England, the debate was also very overtly political. There were the Black Papers, William Tyndale School, ‘Trots in the classroom. Promoting homosexuality, etc. The government reaction in England was very severe and, because of the fissiparous nature of the teaching unions in England, the repressive measures were imposed AND CONTINUED< WITH A VENGEANCE BY NEW LABOUR. The Scottish unions, particularly the EIS, were more successful. In addition, Secretaries of State for Scotland, whether Tory or Labour, did manage to defend Scotland against some of the excesses, but not all. Parents in Scotland seemed to value their schools more than parents in England. Nevertheless, the 'compliance, target-driven approach was imposed to a fair extent and had the effect of stifling teacher creativity: they became very wary of taking risks by employing different pedagogies.

    I think the SG is correct to empower schools directly as a way of bringing about change. I think that the focus for additional funding should be slanted significantly to pre-school and early years. If we can stop the 'gap' appearing in these early years or even reduce its rate of widening then we will make progress. It is not just about 'teaching', it is also about health, exercise, diet, experiences. At these stages, relationships between parents and teachers is very close and pretty cordial, so we also need to build on these relationships to develop both parents and teachers. It is not just a school issue. It is a societal one. Let us get more engagement of communities with local schools. As Hilary Clinton (I know you are no fan, John!) wrote: "It takes a village".

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ludo Thierry September 22, 2017 / 4:50 pm

    Great post Alasdair – as a Scottish NHS person I whole-heartedly concur with your emphasis on directing attention and resources to Early Years. So many of the conditions I find myself working with in adults (of all ages) could have been prevented or, at least, lessened in effect had people enjoyed better opportunities, guidance, advice and input in those vital early years.

    Thanks, Ludo

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alasdair September 22, 2017 / 7:44 pm


      I recall reading of research, which I think was mainly, but not exclusively, carried out in the US which indicated that every dollar invested in the early years saved 7 dollars in ‘remedial’ investment further down the line – mainly the cost of imprisonment.

      By the time children are in secondary school, or even, upper primary, parental engagement with duration falls off, mainly because the children are more independent and often mothers have resumed working. For the majority of children who are coping well with school, their parents are still ready to make appointments about issues, respond to requests from the school to come in, and to attend parents’ evenings. However, for many of the children who are ‘falling behind’ – educationally, socially and behaviourally – their parents are very reluctant to respond to school requests, and when they do go into school, they often conduct themselves in a disorderly way. However, there have been examples of home/school partnership projects, where people are employed who facilitate relationships between such parents and the school and also work with the parents to enable them to deal with personal issues, such as poor literacy, anger management, which prevent them from parenting effectively. Unfortunately, many of these have been time-limited, e.g. 3 years, with ad hoc rather than continuous funding. 3 year projects become, in effect 2 year ones, because the staff begin to leave for other, longer contracts. With the pupil premium, HTs can now institute such projects on a longer scale.

      Liked by 1 person

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