Friday, 15 August 2014

67 Days To Go


The Scottish Education system is admired worldwide and has been for many years.  It is a completely different from rUK in terms of how the school year is broken down, what is taught, age of entry into formal education, the exams taken and when they are taken, even degree courses at university are different as an honours degree takes 4 years rather than 3. Control over our education has been fully devolved to Holyrood.
(From Wikipedia) In 2014, research by the Office for National Statistics found that Scotland was the most highly educated country in Europe and among the most well-educated in the world in terms of tertiary education attainment, above countries like Finland, Ireland and Luxembourg, with roughly 40% of Scots aged 16-64 educated to NVQ Level 4 and above.

So what difference does independence make to education then?
The Scottish Government's plans are:

  • A transformation in childcare provision for every child between age one and school age. By the end of the first independent Scottish Parliament all three and four years olds, and vulnerable two years olds, will be entitled to childcare equivalent to the time spent at primary school
  • With independence benefits, taxes and employment services will work with the education system in raising attainment amongst our most disadvantaged young people
  • Access to higher education will be based on ability, not wealth; this Government will protect free tuition fees for Scottish students and continue to provide appropriate support for living costs
  • This Government will provide levels of public investment in university research that will enable our researchers and universities to remain internationally competitive
  • Education and employment rights could be made part of the written constitution of an independent Scotland, including a youth guarantee to employment, education or training
The Scottish Government went on to explain the correlation between poverty and reduced learning capacity.  Therefore, by having autonomy over our financial matters, we are better able to invest in eradicating poverty and helping children to achieve their potential through quality education, which inturn leads to employment.
We have 5 universities that are ranked in the top 200 in the world (Universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee), which, per head of population, is more than any other country.  The research facilities and quality of research carried out in Scotland, is again renowned throughout the world.  With independence, continued investment and growth of the research and development is crucial to maintaining economic stability.
With regards, moving into employment, the Scottish Government has reported :
The education initiatives for those aged over 16 are complemented by the training opportunities provided through Skills Development Scotland, including in excess of 25,000 Modern Apprenticeship places in 2012/13.  To further boost the opportunities for young people seeking to enter the labour market, Scotland is the only European country with a dedicated Youth Employment Minister, who is responsible for a range of initiatives to maximize the chances of Scotland's young people.
Employment services and training for employability will be significantly improved by independence.  At the moment, the financial benefits of successful employment initiatives by the Scottish Government - such as Modern Apprenticeships, Higher and Further Education funding and other training programmes - go to the Westminster Government in the form of reduced welfare payments and increased tax revenues.  With independence we will retain these benefits in Scotlanf and can re-invest them in our people by funding more employment programmes.
(above info taken from here)

The Scottish Green's view of education post independence is from a different stand point from the current SNP Government. Its a stance that resonates more with me personally. I have not summarised their view, just quoted it directly from their website :
Learning is for life, not just for work.
Education can transform lives and communities, but current policy is too focussed on making young people ‘job-ready’, as though our economic lives are everything. Greens will put more emphasis on nurturing people’s talents and encouraging creative, analytical thinking, investing in an education system that is accessible to all, celebrates diversity and nurtures talent. Scotland’s school curriculum is still too reliant on exam success as the only suitable measure of a child’s future potential. Many of our children feel excluded, and others are simply bored, by a system which values memorising facts over aptitudes such as problem solving, team working and interpersonal social skills. We want to see a society which respects children and aims to give them the freedom to express themselves. Education should not only be about teaching children how to pass exams, it should support young people to become well-rounded citizens. The Greens would require schools to put in place activities to help children learn how to resolve conflicts non-violently. Peace Initiatives encourage members of the community, particularly in schools, to recognise that encountering conflict is a normal part of human life and to support the resolution of conflict through positive, non-violent means. We would like to see initiatives like this across Scotland. Greening education is not just about the curriculum, but also about where teaching takes place and how schools function. Outdoor education develops skills and qualities such as risk assessment, working with others, self-confidence, empathy with Scotland’s countryside, co-ordination and practical skills. The reduction in opportunities to experience outdoor education is unacceptable. - See more at:

But what if the nation votes against independence? What will education look like then?
It would appear that nothing would change with regards to schooling (primary / secondary). Continue as we are under devolved powers, but it is worth remembering again, that devolved powers are not necessarily permanent powers.  The concern being voiced by Better Together, is the level of funding for research and development from the Research Council UK that would be no longer available to Scottish Universities.  Yes Scotland have refuted this, arguing that by not sharing research cross borders goes against the grain of commitment to share knowledge between other universities.
Former Prime Minister, Gordon brown recently commented upon the issue of education, when he announced that Scottish education should come under the UK control. (mind what I said about permanence of devolved powers...). The link for the article reporting Gordon's recommendation is here.
If we were to follows Gordon's opinion,  and relinquish control of our education system to Westminster and the legacy of Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Education is now Nicky Morgan after the recent cabinet shuffle), what would that mean for our education? So far it has meant that 40% of newly qualified teachers, who have just spent 4 years getting their teaching qualification are leaving the profession withing the first 5 years. Its a system that puts the results of league tables and constant tests and exams at the top of the priority list and the needs of the children at the bottom.
A former teacher, Liz Palmer, wrote this for the Guardian earlier this month, and concluded that the state of the UK education system was thus :
"We now have a generation of pupils who have been trained that their individual opinions and skills are invalid, that reading is only worthwhile if the text was written by a white, British man; we have a generation of disaffected teachers, who are woeful about the notion of change (even if it's sometimes for the better); and a generation of school leaders that has been told that managing teachers must involve distrusting them. Politicians may be transient, but attitudes are not. The rot has set in, its effects will be felt for years"

No thanks, Gordon Brown, we'll stick with our own system, thanks all the same.

For the future of our children and theirs, the only way is YES.



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