Lindsay Paterson, professor of education at Moray House Institute, Edinburgh, set the conference theme by arguing that the crisis in Scottish education was between the collectivism of the welfare state and individual autonomy. "Choice has become so firmly embedded, it is almost as difficult to disclaim choice as it would be for a minister to disclaim God," Professor Paterson stated.
The dilemma for the Government was how to acknowledge that a public education system could promote individuality, while for the left it was how to value and promote individualism in a public system.
Liz Reid, director of education in Edinburgh, called for a balance between heads' right to manage their schools and the duties of the employing authorities. "In spite of devolved management of schools, headteachers cannot 'go it alone', even at the level of their own school. The devolution of decision-making is within an education authority scheme and carries a requirement to consult with the school board," she emphasised.