Get­ting it right on ed­u­ca­tion

Blairgowrie Advertiser - - NEWS -

It is now close to 18 months since I was ap­pointed as Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary in the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

It is a very dif­fer­ent role to that of the Fi­nance Sec­re­tary, which I per­formed for the pre­vi­ous nine years.

As Fi­nance Sec­re­tary, you had to op­er­ate within a fixed bud­get and you had to make your choices within such a con­text.

In ed­u­ca­tion, there is much wider de­bate about all of the is­sues you con­sider with a very di­ver­gent set of views ex­pressed.

I have taken care in the last 18 months to set out a very clear agenda in tak­ing for­ward my ed­u­ca­tion re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.The gov­ern­ment’s ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy is driven by a de­ter­mi­na­tion to de­liver ex­cel­lence and equity – ex­cel­lence by en­sur­ing we strive to de­liver the high­est stan­dards and am­bi­tions within the sys­tem and equity by en­sur­ing ev­ery child, re­gard­less of their back­ground, is able to ful­fil their po­ten­tial. This ap­proach is an­chored within the phi­los­o­phy of ‘Get­ting it Right for Ev­ery Child’.

For me, it is vi­tal that the whole ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is clear about that agenda and recog­nises what can be con­trib­uted to that agenda within ev­ery one of the 2500 schools across Scot­land. I am in­creas­ingly con­fi­dent that ap­proach and as­pi­ra­tion is now se­curely founded in Scot­tish ed­u­ca­tion.

At the heart of any suc­cess­ful ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem must be good lead­er­ship and ex­cel­lent learn­ing and teach­ing.

We are in­vest­ing heav­ily in en­cour­ag­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the lead­er­ship within the sys­tem not just among head teach­ers but through­out the teach­ing pro­fes­sion.

I am keen to de­velop new op­por­tu­ni­ties for good teach­ers to thrive by de­vel­op­ing their ca­reers within the class­room, an ap­proach that will re­ally ben­e­fit young peo­ple.

I am de­ter­mined to cre­ate the space to de­liver great learn­ing and teach­ing by re­duc­ing the vol­ume of un­nec­es­sary bu­reau­cracy with which teach­ers are wrestling and pro­vid­ing the clear­est guid­ance on de­liv­ery of the cur­ricu­lum. Although good work has been done, I think the bu­reau­cracy re­duc­tion is still a work in progress but I am pleased that the guid­ance avail­able to teach­ers is now sim­pler and more use­ful.

One of the chal­lenges re­mains the num­ber of teach­ers avail­able in our schools and the par­tic­u­lar is­sues in sub­jects such as science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics - the STEM sub­jects.

I have taken a num­ber of steps to in­crease the num­ber of teach­ers that are avail­able. The num­ber of teach­ers be­ing re­cruited into the pro­fes­sion has been in­creased ev­ery year for the last seven years. We have de­vised new routes to en­cour­age more in­di­vid­u­als to opt to join the teach­ing pro­fes­sion and fur­ther ap­proaches will be con­sid­ered in the pe­riod ahead.

I an­nounced last week a spe­cific mech­a­nism to en­cour­age peo­ple who are al­ready in a ca­reer to opt to join the teach­ing pro­fes­sion in the STEM sub­jects. The idea is to recog­nise the fact that peo­ple al­ready with set­tled ca­reers will find it dif­fi­cult to change di­rec­tion given their ex­ist­ing com­mit­ments. So we will of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple to shift ca­reers and train to be a teacher sup­ported by a one-off £20,000 bur­sary. The idea is to recog­nise it is dif­fi­cult to shift ca­reer if you have fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments and to try to make that more prac­ti­cal for peo­ple in those cir­cum­stances. I will work to en­sure these ap­proaches se­cure the nec­es­sary re­sources are avail­able to meet the needs of young peo­ple.

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