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Streetwise learning;Leading Article;Opinion

A BONFIRE of the quangos is being stoked. At least the opposition parties say so in the run-up to the Scottish parliament elections. But educational agencies will not need to stand clear of the heat for some time yet, and meantime their futures remain worth planning. The curriculum and educational technology may well come together. The Scottish Community Education Council is to be revamped as Community Learning Scotland.

The Government is keen to associate "community learning" with its wider strategies for social inclusion and lifelong learning. That was the thrust of the recommendations last November by a group headed by the senior chief inspector. So as a first step the central agency is being remodelled under a new chairman, Linda McTavish, a further education principal with a down-to-earth west of Scotland appeal.

But although Community Learning Scotland can be expected to concentrate on the practical problems of involving a higher percentage of the population in their own post-school learning and to avoid the temptation to philosophise, real progress will be measured at local level. With community education a non-statutory function, councils have axed hundreds of full-time and part-time posts to save money.

Now councils will have to account for themselves and publish community learning plans setting out targets approved by the Scottish Office. That not only focuses attention at local level but gives councils a lever with which to prise funds from central government, on the argument that targets will remain unrealistic unless enough money goes to meeting them.

For 18 years government looked askance at community education. The atmosphere has changed. Motivating people at street level is the next and much bigger challenge.

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