It's quality that counts

We are a damned conservative nation when it comes to education and homogeneous with it. We like what we call our comprehensive education system that some 95 per cent of the nation experiences, even if in some urban areas it is comprehensive by postcode and house purchase. Yes, there should be changes within it, but, structurally, we are more than happy with what we've got. Indeed, that appears to be a crucial element of being Scottish.

Those are the rough conclusions of the analysis into the parliamentary inquiry into the purposes of education(pages 3 and 7). Politicians in whatever party keen on tinkering with different types of school should observe closely that there is absolutely no support for specialist schools, although people want more choice within a common framework. People do not want the madcap diversity south of the border where there are more types of school than breakfast cereals on supermarket shelves. Scots have rejected both the Tory and Blair agendas and by far the greatest majority are happy to send their children to their local school.

The challenge, now, is clear. It is what we do within them that matters, just as how we really improve education is by improving the interaction between the teacher and student in the classroom. But, increasingly, as the analysis shows, people are demanding a more rounded education away from the narrow academic treadmill. That is something teachers have always highlighted. Schools should not be exam factories. It is just that the focus on outcomes and results designed to kick the system up the backside has skewed the vision.

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