Editor's comment

25th May 2007 at 01:00
Alex Salmond has laid out his five objectives for Scotland and education will be central.

The First Minister wants Scotland to be a wealthy, fairer place: schools, colleges and universities will have to deliver those skills. He wants Scotland to be healthier; schools will be expected to raise children's confidence and self-esteem. Scotland should be safer and stronger under the justice agenda - here discipline and citizenship come into play. He wants a greener Scotland - the eco-schools programme will contribute to that; and he wants Scotland to be smarter - the role of education is self-evident.

The new administration's key theme is integrated working and an end to departmental "silos" - which has uncanny parallels with the aims of A Curriculum for Excellence and its ambitions for cross-curricular co-operation, however ACfE develops under the new administration.

Better early years provision and class-size reduction seem certain to feature in the first 100 days. Both should be able to attract cross-party support. The physical delivery of the SNP's target to give access to a nursery teacher for all children may be difficult, given the low numbers of early years teachers being trained at Scotland's universities.

At the other end of the spectrum are the universities - reluctant bedfellows of further education and schools in the new education super-ministry. When Jack McConnell became First Minister, higher education principals persuaded him to leave universities under the enterprise umbrella. A last-ditch attempt by Universities Scotland to persuade Mr Salmond to do the same was a failure. Fiona Hyslop, secretary for education and lifelong learning, promises that cabinet secretaries and the First Minister will champion education - at all levels. Let us hope they can deliver their five objectives without robbing Peter to pay Paul.

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