Education bill: half-baked or purposeful?

Written by Tom Freeman on 24 June 2015

To say the new Education Bill hasn’t set the heather alight is to understate the level of criticism levelled at the draft legislation in recent weeks.

“The more I look at the Education Bill, I feel there is no ‘big education idea’ at all,” wrote Holyrood editor Mandy Rhodes in a recent column

Council umbrella body COSLA’s submission to the Education and Culture Committee for the Bill’s Stage 1 proceedings was “very negative”, George Adam MSP pointed out yesterday. COSLA vice president councillor Michael Cook said references to attainment had been “parachuted into the bill at the last minute” without proper consultation, leading to “half-baked and half-hearted” legislation.

What COSLA want is councils to have more control over how education is delivered locally, but in the last three years four councils have removed the post of chief education officer. Interestingly, two of those councils support the proposals to make the position statutory.

“We don’t think it is telling councils what structures to have, it is simply a requirement that a specific level of post is incorporated within that structure,” said Bruce Robertson OBE, Education Policy Adviser for the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland.

Education Secretary Angela Constance defended the Bill to the committee, saying chief education officers should be properly qualified, but councils would not need to appoint a new individual if there was already someone in place.

She also called for standardised primary testing to better monitor attainment between primary one and S3. Audit Scotland reported in 2014 there was no way to compare councils or at national levels because different forms of standardised assessments were in use.

"Comparisons between local authorities are indeed difficult because different local authorities are using different forms of standardised assessments and I therefore don't consider it pious for the government to be working towards a national improvement framework so that we get that clear line of sight. I would consider that purposeful and pragmatic," she said. 

This is taken from my weekly education briefing, which goes out to subscribers every Wednesday morning. You can sign up to receive it here 

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