Editor's comment

16th April 2010 at 01:00

Devolution has made Westminster elections messy affairs. The handling of a devolved issue in Scotland, or the perceived competence of its Government, cannot avoid having a knock-on effect for political parties, which could influence UK voting. Equally, educational policies in Westminster may impact on the devolved administrations. So when Prime Minister Gordon Brown tells The TES in England that education is "a key battleground" in this election, we should take notice.

But what should we notice? It suits the parties to pretend there is clear water between them. The truth is that the water is distinctly muddy. English education has, as the main party spokesmen, three formidable operators. Labour's Ed Balls, the Tories' Michael Gove and David Laws of the Liberal Democrats are all articulate and passionate about education. But, gratifying though it is for education to have such splendid advocates, they are adept at magnifying divisions and obscuring agreement. The reality is different.

Take league tables - a subject that unites many teachers in shared loathing. Do any of the parties suggest binning them? No. What about ditching external tests at key stage 2 for 11-year-olds? Forget it. A pay freeze? Nobody disagrees. There are some differences, of course - over parents' right to set up schools or the role of the state, for example. But education is a battleground in England only because all three parties have decided to pick a fight.

The inconvenient truth is that there is far more agreement over education among the Westminster parties than there is between them and either Edinburgh or Cardiff. Such a consensus could put pressure on their counterparts in Scotland - especially Labour - to become more radical in their thinking. This election could be more relevant for Scottish education than is yet apparent.

Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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