Scotland's schools could be on the verge of a yawning chasm between what they are expected to do and what they are capable of doing. A glance at this week's edition makes the point. The changes being willed on schools continue apace, in relation to the curriculum and assessment (p1). The "vision" being set for them by leading thinkers shows no sign of abating (p4-5). They are being urged to extend their reach, yea even unto China (p7). And there are issues surrounding investment in initiatives like leadership programmes (right).
All these pressures are bearing down on schools at the very time when many of them are facing what the Columba 1400 project would call "tough realities", as we also report this week. Glasgow's education service is expected to come up with Pounds 20 million in cuts over the next two years (p3), while 2 per cent "efficiency savings in Edinburgh could mean secondary schools losing around Pounds 80,000 from their budgets and primaries an average of Pounds 20,000.
Whether the culprit is the credit crunch, Westminster animus towards Scotland or parsimony by the SNP Government, it matters not. The fact remains that reforms cannot thrive in such a climate - certainly not those billed as "transformational". As the leader of Scotland's secondary heads says, it could be back to the drawing board for the curriculum changes.
There is a further concern. Straitened circumstances encourage people to hold on to the tried and tested. As Elliott Eisner reminds us, "the familiar is often more comfortable than the certainty of the unknown". That was always an issue in any case, as schools were encouraged to move from centralised control to autonomy. The danger is that the financial meltdown will simply reinforce their comfort zones and make the climate for reform and risk deeply unappealing.