John Swinney tells international education advisors: 'challenge me'

Written by Tom Freeman on 28 February 2017 in News

John Swinney meets his council of educational advisers for the second time, telling them he expects to be challenged

John Swinney - Scottish Government

Education Secretary John Swinney has told his council of education advisors to challenge him and his ministers to ensure the Scottish Government's school reforms are "robust".

The international council of education advisers was set up last year and is made up of educationalists who have influenced policy-making in the US, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Malaysia, Australia and the UK.

They are meeting for the second time to discuss building educational leadership, collaboration and closing the attainment gap.


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Swinney said the reform agenda was based on the recommendations of the OECD's independent report of Scottish education, which called for a "strengthened middle" and a "bold new phase" for the Curriculum for Excellence.

"That report presented questions and challenges for the Scottish Government and it is essential that the ICEA presents similar challenges to ministers to ensure that our reforms are robust and deliver the improvements we need,” he said.

Although the OECD report called for better data-gathering on progress on attainment, it is possible some members of the council of advisers may not be keen on the Scottish Government's plan to introduce standardised testing in primary schools. 

Educationalist Alma Harris, for example, now at the University of Bath, praised Scotland for "putting the focus back on equality", while Finnish expert Pasi Sahlberg advised Scotland not to emulate other countries.

“Andy Hargreaves from the OECD, who is one of our council, encouraged us at the education summit to move from a culture of judgement to a system of judgement, his point being there is not the data available to be clear we are making systemic progress in our journey,” Swinney told Holyrood in October.

“So yes, there will be differences of perspectives within the council of education advisors and the Government has got to listen to all of that, absorb that and reflect it in our thinking as an administration.”

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