Editor's comment

30th October 2009 at 00:00
A welcome message from the TESS for the new shadow Education Secretary Des McNulty

We welcome Labour's Des McNulty to his new brief shadowing Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop. A politician who comes to that job after plotting the course of climate change for his party will be particularly well- attuned to the need for responding to shifting environments. His predecessor Rhona Brankin did an increasingly excellent oppositional job in harrying Ms Hyslop; barely a week went by without her calling for the minister's resignation (although the sharpness dulled with repetition).

Mr McNulty's task will be to shape Labour's education policy, as well as lead frontal assaults on the SNP Government, at a time when his party leader in Scotland has called for a "break with the past" in response to alarm over stalling attainment despite record levels of education spending. He will have to do so as England and Scotland diverge increasingly in their approaches to education - whichever party comes to power at Westminster next year.

Writing in our TES sister paper this week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown echoes the Scottish Tories' mantra of the need to "devolve more power to heads and liberate teachers." And his fellow Scot, shadow education minister for England Michael Gove, signalled what could be the biggest upheaval in education for a generation south of the border when he announced the Tories would massively expand specialist academies, kissing goodbye to any meaningful role for local authorities in education.

Inevitably, this frantic activity will be contrasted with Scottish caution - and perhaps misinterpreted as the reason for superior English performance. Our letters page this week contains a timely warning against simplistic tales of two systems (p20). Mr McNulty should now commission research which will explore the real reasons for differences in spending and attainment north and south of the border. We need evidence-based policy: babies and bathwater spring to mind.

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