Access to all and a winning style

Neil Munro on the hectic first year of the Scottish Parliament, which took up its legislative powers a year ago tomorrow.

IT'S ANNIVERSARY time again, an excuse to look back at the education world's early dances with devolution. As teachers and the rest of education might ask, paraphrasing the Palestinian inquiry of the Romans in The Life of Brian, "what have the MSPs ever done for us?"

Well, there is an education Bill for a start, shortly to become an Act. The lesser-known Education and Training (Scotland) Bill, ushering in individual learning accounts, completed its passage yesterday (Thursday). The chamber has rung to the sound of debates which would have got no more than a half-hour midnight slot in Westminster - if they were lucky.

From children in care and early education o student tuition fees and Skillseekers, few issues have been left outside the spotlight - although who could have predicted that a furore over an obscure piece of legislation, which began with gay sex lessons and ended in marriage, would become the burning educational topic of the year?

Most of those who spend their lives dealing with Parliament have given the first year a resounding endorsement, al-though as much for style as for substance. The greater accessibility of the policy-makers is the key virtue stressed by Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, and Judith Gillespie, of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council.

"The simple test for me is whether I would want to wind the clock back," Smith says, "and the answer is an unambiguous No."

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