Labour's proposals for Scottish education will be debated at the party's conference in Edinburgh this weekend. We reprint key extracts from 'Every Child is Special: A Compact for Scotland's Future'
Labour's compact with every student will aim to maximise the potential of every boy and girl. Assessment of the child will take place soon after entry into primary education and, with parental involvement, a programme should be mapped out, targets set, packages of needs identified.
Based on that assessment, appropriate teaching methods will be agreed with parents and, as the pupil enters secondary education, he or she will gradually take on more and more responsibility for the compact.
The compact will be regularly reviewed to set learning targets appropriate to each pupil's age and stage - the ability to read and count by the age of seven, for example. It will address the health and social needs of the child.
If the child's parents refuse to honour their part of the compact, parent advocates will have a role to play.
Nursery vouchers for all four-year-olds will not guarantee a single new nursery place or improve the quality of education. Scottish Labour plans to set targets to provide a nursery place for every three or four-year-old whose parents wish it. We will also provide better support for parents in the crucial work they do in their children's first years through our proposals for better integration of the health, education and social services.
We see the golden years of three to seven as very significant. Schools will be expected to set clear targets to ensure that all children leave the early years of primary school able to read and count. Young children should also be introduced to computing and foreign languages. We will work towards achieving even more manageable class sizes in the early years.
Successful homework clubs should become an accepted part of after-school provision. We are determined to see more widespread extracurricular activities in schools as part of a proposed review of community education.
While we welcome attempts to modernise the Highers, we are concerned at the hurried and haphazard approach of the Government to date. We are also concerned at the impact Higher Still could have on the provision of comprehensive education in the upper school.
The test of any such change must be whether it meets the needs of the young people staying on at school. To date it is unclear whether Higher Still can achieve this. Labour in government will, if necessary, delay the implementation of Higher Still to allow informed debate to continue and the final framework to be implemented in a climate of consensus.
Labour will boost the leadership and management skills of headteachers with a new Scottish qualification for all teachers who aspire to become heads. There will be a register of senior teachers qualified to become heads. The same principles for underperforming teachers will relate to those headteachers who are seen to be ineffective.
There will be greater devolved management of resources. A financial and needs audit will form part of each school's annual report to parents, the local authority and the Education Minister.
Proposals for revitalising the teaching profession have significant implications for teacher training. Labour will set up a working party which will report in the autumn.
If teachers are to concentrate on raising standards, we must ease administrative burdens. One way of providing support is by extending the role of classroom assistants. This would help attract people in other fields who feel they could find greater fulfilment working with children and women returnees who have skills with young people.
EVERY SCHOOL A 'GOOD' SCHOOL
Parents have a right to express a choice over their children's education, but clear guidelines on admissions criteria are needed to ensure that some schools do not become overcrowded while others become "unfashionable". In the longer term, Labour's pursuit of excellence will make every school a "good" school and the desire for placing requests will consequently diminish.
STANDARDS AND TABLES
Labour will introduce national guidelines to standardise the value-added criteria used for the assessment of performance by all schools and will make sure this information is available to parents. Our approach will enable schools to take measures for improvement which raw league tables and crude per pupil cost analyses, on their own, cannot do.
Labour will set tough national standards taking into account the various criteria for assessing school effectiveness. Those schools which have difficulty meeting the standards will be able to draw on local authorities to help them address their needs.
Schools will be expected to set and publish their own performance targets on an annual basis. Schools will be evaluated on their ability to advance individual achievement through supported study. Discipline strategies will be included in the school inspection regime and schools will be expected to publish details of how they have set targets and improved internal discipline in their annual reports.
Where a school consistently fails to meet nationally agreed standards, or fails to achieve the necessary improvements identified by an HMI inspection, it will be the subject of special attention. There will be powers to close any underperforming school.
THE ROLE OF PARENT ADVOCATES
Each school should designate at least one adult with the responsibility for parent outreach. This would preferably be someone who is not part of the teaching staff but who is capable of acting as an advocate on behalf of those parents who may feel intimidated or alienated from the system. That parent advocate might be given responsibility for oversight of the operation of the pupil compacts.
* As part of the compact, every pupil should have a homework diary, and a copy of this should be sent home to parents. Parents should also be given guidance in the best way of supporting their children's homework.
* Parents will receive an annual assessment of children's progress. This is a more meaningful method of evaluating the performance of pupils and the achievement of higher standards than the rigid and mechanistic testing approach favoured by the Conservatives.
* School boards are seen as a top-down failure. Scottish Labour will replace school boards with a commission for each school, with membership elected and co-opted, to reflect the relevant interests of parents, teachers, senior management, health and social work staff associated with the school and representatives of industry and the local authority.
TEACHERS: THE CARROT AND THE STICK
Most teachers perform a difficult task outstandingly well. Scottish Labour will consult about the development of fully accredited programmes of in-service training . . . we are anxious that every teacher be an effective teacher.
The current necessary emphasis on managerialism in schools has to some extent downgraded the value put on teaching skills. It may be appropriate for senior teachers to undertake programmes of training in staff motivation and development to ensure that all teachers are able to benefit from their annual staff development interview.
It is absurd that the best teachers have to leave the classroom to gain promotion. The post of senior teacher has increasingly become absorbed into the management structure . . . those who have achieved high competence in teaching must be recognised.
Teachers who come into this category will be used as professional pace-setters . . . of particular value to probationer teachers. Such teachers could become associate fellows of local higher education establishments. Scottish Labour will also examine the possibility of introducing sabbaticals or study visits for those teachers who have taught successfully for a long period. This would help bring new ideas to the classroom.
Those who have taken the wrong career choice or who have become demotivated . . . must be assessed and assisted to pursue their careers in areas more suited to them. However, if they are profoundly unsuited to the world of education, then they can no longer be allowed to stay in the profession.
Local authorities and the various professional associations will be asked to produce a blueprint for dealing with these cases rapidly and with the minimum of fuss. Talks will begin on a strengthened and reorganised General Teaching Council to encompass teacher development beyond the probationary period.