Editorial: Life has changed for ever - we just don't know how

19th September 2014 at 01:00

The Scotland we are waking up in today is irrevocably and fundamentally changed. All that is left for us to do is to wait and see exactly what the future will look like - and find out how the changes that are now undoubtedly around the corner will affect our own lives and Scotland as a whole.

The education sector has experienced massive change in recent years, from the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence to the reorganisation of the college sector, which has not only created new structures but brought with it uncertainty and pressures on the system that will take time to settle down.

The waiting lists revealed in TESS today are one way in which the serious cuts to college budgets and the pressures on further education are being manifested.

It is true that the number of people on these lists outstrips the number of students in Scotland still waiting for a place - many young people will apply to several courses at several colleges to increase their chances of securing a place. But that does not take away from the fact that dozens of courses have received more applications than places are available.

The regionalisation of the sector was not meant to affect students. Indeed, staff have done their best to prevent the stress from hurting learners. But although reports by the Scottish Funding Council have confirmed that learners do not feel their studies have been impaired by the mergers, budget cuts of the size FE has been forced to swallow in recent years, together with structural changes and the impact they have had on staff, were never going to go unnoticed by students.

Here, colleges have a lot in common with schools. The implementation of CfE and the new qualifications have caused the kind of workload pressures and stress for teachers that are bound to be noticed by children and young people, regardless of whether or not the changes will be positive in the long term.

The architects of the new curriculum, intended to make learners ready for "life in the 21st century", came together last week to voice their regrets and take stock of their successes.

Although they were proud of the direction in which CfE was taking Scottish education, members of the panel expressed frustration around, among other things, the ongoing central role of exams. Indeed, the feeling was that they had underestimated the challenge of engaging and inspiring the entire teaching profession. This, surely, is a challenge common to all landmark educational reform.

Large-scale change, in the education sector or in society, never goes entirely smoothly: it will always mean added pressure or disadvantage for someone. But it will be years, if not decades, until we are able to judge whether or not CfE delivers the intended benefits. And the same probably goes for the historic result announced today.



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