Brown's bombshell will miss McCrone

The Chancellor's comprehensive spending review is likely to leave Scottish education fundamentally unchanged, reports David Henderson.

As comprehensive education in England was effectively buried this week, the Scottish educational community remained confident there would be fewer bombshells when scottish ministers reveal in September how they will spend their extra pound;4.1 billion between 2003 and 2006.

It is expected education will this time lose out to other priorities, although the additional funds seem likely to allow ministers to honour existing commitments in the McCrone package and other key policies such as social inclusion and new community schools.

The comprehensive spending review, announced on Monday by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will raise the Scottish spending block to over pound;22 billion by 2006. South of the border, ministers are ready to inject around pound;14 billion extra into education, and signalling the demise of the "one size fits all" secondary.

A raft of categories of school from "advanced schools" to "specialist schools" will finally end any notion of uniformity. Estelle Morris, Education Secretary, spells out her plans in her document, Investment for Reform.

Alan Blackie, president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said: "We're in a different ball game to colleagues south of the border, where there are maybe a lot more challenges. We've got our national priorities, improvement plans and the national debate and I think the agenda here is clear."

Mr Blackie, director in East Lothian, said ministers had already agreed improvements with local authorities on new community schools, social inclusion and closer integration in children's services. "I would expect the Scottish Executive would want to follow that agenda," he said.

It was also clear from ministers' remarks that they were still committed to heavy investment in school buildings, beyond their existing programme of public private partnerships.

Pat Watters, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said: "Comprehensive education is a right in Scotland and it's very important it continues. Education is not only a Government priority, it's a local government priority and we're working with the Executive on that."

Jim Docherty, assistant secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers'

Association, added: "In spite of all the initiatives and grand plans in Scotland, conspicuously absent among them is that control should be taken away from local authorities. Improvements in education are best brought about by people who have a significant knowledge and experience of the education system and that excludes the vast majority of politicians."

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland said: "Our system is significantly different from England and we do not anticipate we'll be heading in the same direction."

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