Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Gemma Fraser
19 November 2020
Former first minister calls for a 'shake-up' to the Scottish education system

Holyrood Magazine

Former first minister calls for a 'shake-up' to the Scottish education system

Former first minister Jack McConnell is calling for a “radical shake-up” of education in Scotland.

McConnell, who is a former teacher, believes direct action must be taken to ensure Scotland becomes a “world leader again”.

The former first minister is due to give the David Raffe Memorial Lecture at Moray House School of Education and Sport at the University of Edinburgh on Thursday night.

He is expected to say: “Twenty years ago this month I was given the task of rebuilding morale, standards and ambition in Scotland’s schools.

“For a former teacher it was the job I had dreamed of. In the year that followed, we put the teacher back at the heart of the system and started on the road to recovery and world class education in Scotland again.

“A new professional teaching settlement drove higher quality in the classroom and better recruitment, exam results were delivered accurately and on time, access to music tuition, environmental and global learning became universal and the biggest school building programme ever transformed the learning environment.

“Twenty years on there are real problems again. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, morale was falling, Scotland was falling behind other countries in the UK and across the world, a large number of disadvantaged kids are failed by the system every year, and the new Curriculum for Excellence has made matters worse.

“It is time for a radical rethink and I propose a five point plan.”

McConnell’s plan includes “a radical shake up, implemented decisively” and he believes the acquiring of knowledge, proof of attainment and freedom for schools to innovate must be placed at the core of the system.

He also says there should be a return to an independent inspectorate to drive up standards to call out “failure” and support improvement.

The five point plan also includes a review of the teaching settlement including continuous professional development, recruitment and retention, and the role of local leaders in schools and councils in managing and driving improvement; targeted action to improve the life chances of those most disadvantaged and vulnerable, and immediate re-establishment of surveys and data collection to measure the impact of initiatives and policy, and to assess improvement or decline.

“Piecemeal change, complacency and political spin must no longer be tolerated,” said McConnell.

“It is time for honesty and action. Our children and young people have had a terrible year in 2020, so let’s resolve to give them hope from 2021.

“An education system that might someday be a world leader again would be a good start.”

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe



Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top