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Good, but could be far better

cottish education does many things well and some things particularly well.

So says HMIE. But there are still too many things that Scottish education does not do well enough - or, to be more precise, not consistently well enough. There are many examples of good practice, whether it comes to leadership - where the best headteachers are the equal to the leaders in any other walk of life, according to the inspectorate - or teaching.

But that quality does not run through to every layer of the system. There are still 15 per cent of schools with weak or unsatisfactory leadership; the bottom 20 per cent of youngsters are still leaving school with an inadequate education; and the changing economic dynamics of an increasingly globalised marketplace mean that Scotland's future prospects rely on the education of the next generation.

For that reason, Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector of education, is right to say that it is not enough to fix the areas that need to be fixed - areas such as the perennial S1-S2 malaise, underachievement of boys and the failure to meet the educational needs of the most vulnerable.

He highlights the extra miles that schools and the rest of education have to go in a prescription for improvement that will meet with widespread approval, such as a greater focus on literacy and numeracy and a more explicit cross-curricular approach to health education and citizenship.

And, underlying everything, there is the need for better learning and teaching, incorporating more imaginative methodologies and better use of ICT.

There are, of course, inherent challenges, not to say apparent contradictions, in HMIE's analysis of the way ahead. Learning needs to be more customised to each individual pupil - yet children need to learn to be more community-minded and to be better at working in teams. Greater depth of corporate leadership is needed - yet it is becoming harder to attract applicants to those key posts. New ways must be found to recognise achievements, as well as attainment - yet that must not be seen as mere compensatory awards for second best. It's a tall order.

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