Editor's comment

15th May 2009 at 01:00
There has been a good deal of introspection in the public prints in the past week - and that's not another way of describing scams by MPs

But it seems appropriate that, at the time when Westminster's finest are getting it in the neck over their expenses, Scotland's Parliament has been uncharacteristically upbeat as we recall the heady days of optimism engendered by the elections of the first MSPs 10 years ago this month. The other anniversary, of course, was the advent of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister 30 years ago this month (a seismic event which the Times group, to which The TESS then belonged, was unable to report because its newspapers were shut for nearly a year in a dispute with the print unions).

Both these events made a huge impact on education in very different ways. Although the Scottish Parliament may not have given birth to much discernible improvement in the performance of schools, as we recently reported, that is not for want of legislative scrutiny; there is clearly not a cause and effect relationship one with the other. As for the Thatcher era, it ushered in a period of unprecedented confrontation in education, personified by her impressively determined Scottish education minister Michael Forsyth, who presided over exam league tables, opting out of schools from council control and school boards.

Which of the two legacies will last longer? While the Parliament has proposed and disposed, it has largely reinforced trends on devolution to and accountability of schools which were the key ingredients of the ThatcherForsyth revolution. As the now Lord Forsyth has said, one of his heroine's finest achievements was the creation of New Labour, making the party electable for the first time in a generation - leading directly to the setting up of the Scottish Parliament, which the Tories resolutely opposed. Let us celebrate irony this month too.

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