Listen to ensure a better future
Last week, the Scottish Government announced its new Programme for Government.
In pre-announcement trails Nicola Sturgeon claimed that this would be the boldest and bravest legislative agenda since devolution.
I was sceptical as l had heard this claim every September, but I decided to listen carefully and l was particularly keen to hear what the First Minister had to say in relation to the new education bill.
In principle, this is a bill to which the Scottish Conservatives could lend support but certainly not in its current form. Changes will have to be made.
For many years, we have argued for radical reform to school governance to allow headteachers to have genuine autonomy to decide what goes on in their own school.
Under the current system, there are too many national and local government straitjackets which prevent teachers from getting on with the job they are trained to do.
The recent teachers’ reaction to the bureaucracy of the watered down Named Person proposals is just one such example.
If this new education bill was to put in place the legislation that would free up our school system John Swinney would have our support but, as things stand just now, the SNP seem intent on having another regional structure on top of the existing national and local government structures and one which is accountable to him.
The Cabinet Secretary says it is only a collaborative measure allowing schools to take advantage of shared good practice but l do not see why that necessitates a whole new structure with new regional appointees.
Surely collaboration can work well between schools without that bureaucracy and with the proper support in place from effective education agencies.
And on this issue, surely it is time to split off the school inspectorate from Education Scotland.
Last week’s statistics which showed that the number of school inspections is still declining is just another reason why the change should be made.
Education Scotland does not have time to undertake inspection effectively and it should not be judge and jury at the same time.
The Pupil Equity Fund is a good idea which has strong, cross-party support but it must be the headteacher who is responsible for spending the money and being accountable for the improved standards which will hopefully result from it.
These headteachers do not want national and local government breathing down their necks.
There are some people who argue that fixing our school system only requires more money. I disagree. Of course money is important but there are other issues at stake which are just as important and we need to be bold if we are to make the necessary changes.
However, none of this is going to be possible unless the SNP solves the teacher shortage issue.
They need to ensure there are enough teachers in our schools including those who support pupils with additional support needs.
Sometimes, the Scottish Conservatives are accused of being ideological about education.
I would argue very strongly that our polices are not ideological at all but based on what works and on proven evidence.
I hope the Scottish Government starts listening in order to achieve what we all want and that is better schools for our children.
Work to be done Liz Smith MSP has called on the Scottish Government – including Education Secretary and local MSP John Swinney – to solve the country’s teacher shortage