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Best can be better, declares Peacock

Peter Peacock has criticised newspapers that portray Scottish schools in "meltdown" despite the country having "one of the best education systems in the world".

The Education Minister told an international seminar, which examined how good innovative practice works in education, that there was still broad consensus on the philosophy and policy supporting the Scottish system. The Scottish Executive was trying to build on that consensus to focus on which issues had to be tackled.

However, Mr Peacock told the gathering at the Lighthouse in Glasgow that he was "not complacent about the future" and that Scotland had ambitions to do much better. "We believe in the power of education to transform our nation and make us more competitive," he said.

Whether or not a young person had expectations of success still depended on which community they were born into. Cities such as Glasgow had major concentrations of deprivation.

Mr Peacock said: "The leadership in our schools is not as good as it could be -15 per cent of leaders in school are regarded as weak and that has profound implications for all that happens in these schools."

The curriculum had been too cluttered and under too much central control and direction, but the Executive was embarking on a major reform programme.

"I would love to think it was possible to give people a period of stability," Mr Peacock said, "but we are in a period of change and the changes we are trying to make for the first time are to remove the barriers to professionals in schools and to allow them to use their professional skills to tailor education to the individual needs of their pupils".

He wanted Scotland to get away from the "tall poppy syndrome" and to encourage greater confidence among individuals.

The seminar, one of a bilateral series organised by the International Futures Forum and the European Journal of Education, showcased three projects currently being funded by the Executive's Future Learning and Teaching (FLaT) programme.

The first, Moving Image Education, based in Angus, is aimed at developing literacy through the analysis and creation of film. The programme focuses on other priorities such as creativity, motivation, self-esteem, ICT and teamwork, relevance and inclusion.

Andrew Gallacher, MIE project leader, told the seminar that by the time a child was 21 they would have had 15,000 hours of formal education, spent 30,000 hours in front of a television, and 50,000 in front of a computer.

"How do we take that small amount of time in education and make it relevant?" Mr Gallacher asked.

Teachers who had used the MIE programme had reported better attainment and motivation among pupils. But he warned his audience: "You have to persuade headteachers and parents that it is OK to allow children to watch 40 minutes of television at school when they are already watching 30,000 hours at home."

The second project was presented by Ian Fraser, head of education services at East Renfrewshire, where the authority has adapted the Spark of Genius e-focused programme tailored for individual pupils whose particular difficulties mean they cannot learn in mainstream school.

SuperSpark uses many of the key techniques and principles underlying Spark of Genius but has adapted the programme as a means of cutting exclusions and raising attainment.

Arts Across the Curriculum, the third initiative showcased, has been inspired by a project in Chicago in which artists and teachers team teach and combine elements of the arts and education to engage young people.

Backed by the Scottish Arts Council and the Executive, it is being piloted across seven authorities next year.

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