I am pleased that the SNP leadership contest can help contribute to the wider education debate in Scotland. The Blair-Adonis agenda for specialist schools in England is the break-up of the comprehensive system and embracing of selection. It is about excellence and selection for a few rather than the sharing of success for all which I think should be the Scottish approach.
Yes, specialist schools like national sports academies in Scotland can nurture special talents of the few specially gifted pupils and I support that, but we must be innovative if we are to enable all pupils to share in success and a sense of real achievement.
If core skills, creative thinking and confidence are seen to be important goals within the education system we need to allow headteachers the flexibility, control and choice about how they manage the teaching within their schools to do this. There is more to delivering that than simply schools specialising, but I was asked about that one particular aspect and so I want to address it specifically.
Local schools should be supported to develop natural specialisms which can then be shared to the benefit of other pupils in neighbouring schools.
Indiscipline is a serious problem in schools. A positive ethos and identity has been proven to be vital in tackling this. Developing pride and passion about learning within a school which has a particular focus can help build this positive ethos. The development of special strengths, in addition to the high standards in all subjects which must be expected of all schools in the comprehensive system, can be a useful tool to support learning across the curriculum.
However, it means placing trust, control and choice and resources with the headteacher and teaching staff who can, by working constructively with pupils and parents, develop specialities to suit their particular school.
Pride can be a very powerful tool if used wisely and pride in your own and others' achievements can be a powerful tool in education.
Alex Salmond MP