A good read, but not a new one

Neil Munro introduces a two-page report on the latest Conservative blueprint for Scottish education.

Michael Forsyth, the Scottish Secretary, launched his election clarion call for education last week and described Raising the Standard: a White Paper on Education and Skills Development in Scotland as "a good read".

Mr Forsyth was anxious to use the blue-covered document to assure the press that "we have not run out of ideas". Fresh proposals are, however, in a minority in the White Paper's 46 pages. Only 10 out of the 30 points for action in the schools section, for example, could be considered new. One observer described the document as "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue".

Among "old" initiatives repackaged are the pre-school vouchers, the Pounds 9 million basic skills programme, the Pounds 25 million cash help for authorities to improve school security over the next three years, the Pounds 3 million in grants to promote "alternatives to exclusion" over three years, increases in the assisted places scheme, the start of Higher Still in 1998, more setting in S1S2, and the policy commitment to the University of the Highlands and Islands.

"Something borrowed" might describe extended powers for the General Teaching Council, better management training for senior school staff, tougher appraisal, and value-added examination data - which all feature in Labour's Scottish education policy document Every Child is Special.

And if anything can be politically categorised as "something blue", the obvious candidates are entrenchment of opted-out schools, post-school skills vouchers, assisted places and devolved school management, as well as the abolition of collective pay bargaining.

Comment, page 19

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