My Column

School deal is vital for bright future

  • Date: Monday 26th September 2016
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It's hugely important that we look after the Scottish business brains of tomorrow – and it all starts in the classroom.

That’s why I was interested to see that there have been lots of proposed changes and announcements lately for Scottish education, sparking a number of debates.

The government recently launched a review of school governance which aims to significantly reduce teacher workload, bureaucracy and over-assessment. In fact, the latest proposal is possibly one of the most radical shake-ups in Scottish education for a long time.

A big part of the latest proposal aims to give individual schools more power rather than relying on, and abiding by, the decisions made by local councils and authorities.

Giving individual schools more power sounds like a great idea initially as teachers will surely know what’s best for their own school and where the focus of funding, for example, should be.

Input from individual school is invaluable

However, a number of teaching unions have hit back with concerns that the government is seeking to lessen the role of local authority bodies.

As part of this review by HM inspectors, they looked at the possible developments which could be made to forward planning, assessments and reporting to parents that would reduce a teacher’s workload. This review suggested that 14 out of the 32 local authorities in Scotland could vastly improve in these areas.

Education Secretary John Swinney has claimed that the proposed changes would ensure teachers across Scotland would have more time to teach in the classroom and ultimately this would contribute to reducing the attainment gap - a big focus for the SNP government.

Not only is the structure of school governance changing, but school qualifications are to receive a big shake-up in the coming years too.

Let’s not forget it was only in 2014 that national curriculum levels had a complete overhaul, but it appears further changes are to be expected.

The new proposal looks to reduce the number of unit assessments and enhance the level of coursework which is marked externally. In some cases a grade for a particular subject may rely entirely on one end-of-term exam. Personally, I think in a bid to help teachers, this hinders the students.

When a full year’s work boils down to a single exam, that is immense pressure, and if a percentage of the grade was already decided from coursework it would ease the stress of the final exam for students. It also seems a bit of a contradiction that the latest government suggested policy aims to reduce teachers’ workloads but also give head teachers more power which ultimately would then increase workload.

Those opposing the latest review have claimed that the ‘empowerment’ of head teachers would shift their focus to more paperwork and accounts which detracts from the teaching. To a certain extent, I do agree that overarching local authorities and councils serve a great purpose of making the bigger decisions on budget and policy, but the input from individual schools would be invaluable.

Only with the right balance can the grass roots of great future business be encouraged to grow into a successful, sustainable Scottish economy.

Read the rest of the Column Here


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