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Legislators to listen to children

THE EDUCATION Improvement Bill is to be published in the week beginning July 5 as a consultative paper which will invite comments from a wide range of interests, including pupils.

This was announced in a Parliamentary statement on Wednesday by Sam Galbraith, the education minister. His comments were designed to honour ministerial pledges that there would be pre-legislative scrutiny before bills began their passage through the Parliament.

The draft proposals will be sent to every school and organisation with an interest in children. The document will also be available on the Internet and Mr Galbraith particularly encouraged pupils with access to the Net to become involved in the debate. "I do consider that the views of young people about schools should be listened to," Mr Galbraith said.

He and Peter Peacock, his deputy, plan a series of meetings throughout Scotland to discuss the Bill. The consultation will continue until the end of October after which any amendments will be incorporated into the legislation. The Bill will then be considered in the first instance by the Parliament's education committee which will report on whether it should be approved in principle before its passage begins.

Mr Galbraith said the bill, to be based on January's white paper, will contain "a few simple measures which will strengthen the culture of improvement and make clear the responsibilities of all those in the education system."

He made it clear that ministers and local authorities would have their responsibilities spelt out as well as those of the schools. "Each of the partners must pull its weight," he added.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP's education spokesperson, said the consultative innovations simply reflected existing practice of issuing green and white papers before legislation. Mr Galbraith said he hoped to have heard more constructive criticism.

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