Editor's comment

7th May 2010 at 01:00

By the time this edition of the paper hits the streets, the settled will of the British people should be clear - or clear as mud if their votes result in a hung Parliament. But one thing which will be very clear is that whoever inherits Downing Street will face one of the biggest crises confronting any government since the Second World War. Public finances are going to take a hammering whatever rosette hangs on the door of Number 10 and, as one of the largest consumers of those finances, education will bear part of the brunt. This is already becoming evident, no matter the honeyed words about "protecting frontline services".

It is a long way from London to Livingston, but it is in West Lothian's capital that signs are emerging of the kind of thinking required to deal with the looming financial frost. On community management of schools, we have an East Lothian Question; on school provision, we may now have a West Lothian Answer. The unpalatable truth with which these and other education authorities have to wrestle is that they will not just be required to do the same with less, but to do more with less. They cannot carry on regardless.

The traditional response to times of financial difficulty has been to wield the axe, and no doubt it will continue to hover. But if the creative thinking evident in West Lothian is part of the mix, there is hope. Faced with uneconomical classes, spending reductions and costly staffing, its plan is to expand pupil choice and support teaching jobs in minority subjects - while cutting costs at the same time. That is certainly a laudable attempt to square the circle and it deserves applause. If schools are to be asked to make sacrifices, they must have evidence that they are getting something in return which actually enhances education rather than diminishes it.

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

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