Priorities will have equal weight, vows Jamieson

THE Education Minister gave an assurance last week that all five national education priorities would be given the same weighting.

Cathy Jamieson made her intentions clear as separate national conferences heard two major concerns - that exam attainment is listed as the number one priority and that creativity, ambition and citizenship are in danger of being measured on a similar "quantitative" basis.

Elaine Murray, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, had announced at an "art of learning" conference in Glasgow that performance measures for creativity are being developed, with a likely launch date of October next year. Schools are expected to have three-year targets in place from the 2004-05 session.

Ms Jamieson, speaking to The TES Scotland at a conference on study support, stressed that the priorities are not ranked in numerical order. "I certainly want to see parity of esteem and we are working to promote all the priorities. It is a fair point to make that the successes and outcomes will be measured in different ways, but it doesn't mean that we should give any less attention to any priority."

But a leading UK educationist issued a "health warning" at the art of learning conference that quantitative approaches used to check on exam success could spell trouble if they were used to judge how successfully schools dealt with other priorities.

John MacBeath, professor in educational leadership at Cambridge University, told The TES Scotland: "For some people giving equal weighting to all five national priorities means measuring everything. But if we are talking about measuring in a quantitative sense we might be in trouble.

"If on the other hand we are talking about qualitatively measuring what creativity or citizenship is, then it means thinking in new ways about how schools report and how we report nationally.

"We are quite good in Scotland at measuring achievement and attainment. But how do we give equal weight and equal value to the much wilder, less easily measured things like drama productions, community involvement, brass bands and orchestras which in a way are big showpieces for schools and really highlight the quality of a school.

"If we try to box it and try to tame the wildness of creativity, then we are in trouble."

Professor MacBeath added: "Equal status does not mean having to apply the same quantitative measurement to everything. We have got to get much better at being able to portray qualitatively the magic, the creativity, the spontaneity of the arts in ways that capture their essence rather than trying simple measurements."

His concerns were echoed the following day by Keir Bloomer, chief executive of Clackmannanshire and an education adviser to Holyrood's inquiry on the purposes of education.

Addressing the annual conference of the Scottish Study Support Network, Mr Bloomer suggested that some people regarded achievement and attainment as the only priority because it was listed first. "I don't think that is the Executive's view," he said, "but if we are going to be serious about all five priorities they all need parity of esteem.

"In particular, numbers three, four and five (inclusion and equality, values and citizenship, and learning for life, which includes creativity and ambition) will need some very serious development work if schools and their partnerships are going to deliver successfully the very wide and rich range of experiences which will be needed to fulfil them."

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