Scotland has been protected against a profit-driven "virus" that is tainting education across the globe – but creeping "marketisation" remains a threat to schools, a union leader has warned.
Euan Duncan, president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said: "We need to cherish the values we have in Scottish education and protect what we have with all our might: no academies, no free schools, no marketisation, no standardised testing, no published league tables."
Spreading 'like a virus'
He warned that Scotland was not immune to what has been dubbed "GERM" (the "global education reform movement"), which is "imposing a business model on education" and "spreading rapidly like a virus".
There were signs of danger, for example, in the Scottish government’s imposition of standardised assessments and Edinburgh’s "collapsing" privately financed school buildings, he added.
"Profit-makers are prowling all around our education system, seeking out what they can devour," said Mr Duncan at his union’s annual conference in Crieff.
But he feared that the energy to resists such threats could no longer be found in teachers’ staffrooms: increasing workload meant that, rather than being hubs of activity and discussion, these were "barren places, uninhabited and unused".
Mr Duncan remained undecided on the new SNP government’s plans for educational boards – apparently designed to give headteachers and communities more responsibility for running schools. But he noted, with sarcasm, that England’s free schools and academies were fuelled by similar rhetoric, "and we all know what a great job [Westminster education secretary] Nicky Morgan has been making of that".
He also highlighted "strong and compelling evidence" from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that market principles have "a negative impact on student outcomes by deepening segregation and inequality".
Mr Duncan added: "One of the hardest things about working in the public sector is that when politicians seek improvements, the simplest answer is to expect employees to work harder for less – we are seeing it with the junior doctors in England, we see it with education in Scotland."
This is an edited article from the 20 May edition of TESS. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TESS magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here