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HE students should pay for tuition

Neil Munro looks at the 'radical' recommendations in Learning to Succeed in Scotland, an independent report published earlier this week. A series of 60 recommendations, covering every aspect of education, forms the basis of the report by the independent Commission on Scottish Education, that was published on Monday.

The recommendations in Learning to Succeed in Scotland have been dominated by what is seen as the most controversial proposal: to charge higher-education students for their teaching as well as living costs.

The comprehensive and radical nature of the 132-page report was stressed by the commissioners this week; 8,000 copies are being distributed throughout Scotland.

Charles Moncur, the former civil servant and businessman who chaired the body, said the commissioners did not pursue "consensus at any price" during their 14 meetings. Malcolm Green, Glasgow's education chairman and another commissioner, described the report's conclusions as being "in line with progressive thinking".

The commission's work was financially supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the General Teaching Council and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. The Hamlyn Foundation also funded the independent Learning to Succeed report in 1993 that was the forerunner of the Scottish version.

Dr Green acknowledged that the 1993 report had met the "sad fate" of being ignored by the Government. But the commissioners believe that the pre-election timing of the Scottish proposals could make them much more influential.

Mr Moncur, in his preface to the report, also attempted to lay to rest any suggestion of wasted effort on other grounds. "It would be a pity if our recommendations were cast aside on the basis of their cost," he wrote.

He added that their proposals were not prohibitively expensive: some would cost nothing, some might save money in the long term such as early intervention reading programmes, some identify new sources of finance such as HE student charges, and some would involve policy changes for funds already earmarked such as nursery vouchers.

The commission was set up by the Forum on Scottish Education, the broad-based umbrella group whose leading lights are the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Church of Scotland.

Despite the report's dismissal of almost every key aspect of the Government's education policy, the commission paid a tribute to the Scottish Office "for the beneficial influence which it has exercised over the system in recent decades", citing the inspectorate's close working relationships with schools in particular.

The report's main message to the Scottish Office is that it should at least double its spending on educational research.

The Rev John Taylor, the forum's outgoing chairman, hoped the report's proposals would lead to changes as momentous as the 1872 and 1944 Education Acts and bring an end to the "adhocracy" which had plagued Scottish education for so long.

Key Recommendations

* PRE-SCHOOL A pre-five place for all three and four-year-olds whose parents want one. The Government should abandon nursery vouchers,with funds going to the new councils in a pre-five partnership with the voluntary and private sectors.

* PRIMARY P1-3 should be priorities for smaller class sizes. If the cost of the extra teachers is prohibitive in the short term, hire auxiliaries.

Literacy problems should be tackled early using schemes such as New Zealand's Reading Recovery.

The 5-14 programme should be vigorously supported.

* SECONDARY Government plans for compulsory testing in S1 and S2 should be scrapped. They are contrary to the spirit of testing in primary schools and would reintroduce divisions between the two sectors.

The Higher Still programme should not be delayed again but resources must be made available.

The relevance of Standard grade should be reviewed in a few years.

* SCHOOL ORGANISATION Opting-out should continue to be seen as an irrelevance.

Comprehensive schooling and mixed-ability teaching should be retained, although setting is acceptable, especially after S2.

Whole-class teaching should remain only one weapon in the flexible armoury of the Scottish teacher.

There should be an independent review of the teaching profession.

* FURTHER EDUCATION There should be more collaboration between FE and schools and higher education to avoid duplication.

The funding formula should be reviewed to ensure it does not put small colleges at an unfair disadvantage.

Registration of lecturers with the GTC should be compulsory.

* HIGHER EDUCATION The regime of cuts or "efficiency gains" should be postponed pending the outcome of the UK-wide Dearing committee of enquiry.

Students should contribute to their tuition fees on a model similar to that in Australia; repayment after graduation should be income-based as it should be for loans to support student living costs.

There should be a study to test the feasibility of a single funding council for FE and HE.

* GOVERNANCE Training for heads and their senior staff should be revisited.

The powers of the GTC should be extended to ensure the continuing competence of teachers; suspension from the register should be considered as a disciplinary sanction along with removal.

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