Education Reforms

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

That question covered quite a lot of topics, Presiding Officer, so you will forgive me as I try to address them.

In my statement to Parliament, I have recorded that I believe that faster progress has been delivered because of the collaborative route, as opposed to a legislative route, that we have taken. I cite the following evidence. First, if we had been involved in a legislative process we would not have been able to focus partners on delivery of some of the specific components of an education bill.

The headteachers charter is now available. It has been delivered and implemented in Scottish education. If we had waited for a bill, the headteachers charter would have been available only once we had enacted the provision. That is the first piece of evidence.

The second piece of evidence is the information that has been provided to me by the chief inspector of education on the assessment that she and Education Scotland have been doing through thematic inspection of how the approach that we are setting out has been applied by all partners, and through her chairing of the steering group, which is implementing the agenda. I cite that as evidence that faster progress is being delivered.

Liz Smith moved on to talk about baseline data on performance in the education system. I know that there are issues to be rehearsed in terms of the information that we publish routinely as part of the national improvement framework, in which we set out, year on year, the progress that has been made by young people in our education system, with greater detail than was ever the case in the past. Information is published on primary 1, primary 4, primary 7, and S3 levels: no such comprehensive detail was published in the past.

The data that we are all familiar with demonstrates that attainment is improving in our education system, and that the attainment gap has been closing. That data has previously been well rehearsed in Parliament.

Finally, I will move on to subject choice. Curriculum control will, under the headteachers charter, which is a relatively recent publication, be vested in individual schools. We are encouraging collaboration among schools in our education system. For some schools, collaborating with each other over the availability of subject choice, so that a broader subject choice can be made available than would be the case if everything was contained in an individual school, is required. There will be a role for local authorities in that collaboration. I know, as is authenticated in the information that I have had from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education, that local authorities are genuinely committed to that process. We should welcome that as evidence of the creation of an empowered education system.