Editor's comment

28th May 2010 at 01:00

One of the key legislative proposals for education in England, unveiled in this week's Queen's Speech, will change the school system there fundamentally. By contrast, the excitement in Scotland over the East Lothian question on how schools should be managed is relatively small beer.

While this is an important matter, the UK coalition Government's plan to give all top-performing state schools (as defined by the Ofsted inspectorate) the right to adopt independent academy status has the potential to change the landscape of English education in a way perhaps not seen since the flowering of the comprehensives in the 1960s (other schools will be given the right over time). In addition, in a separate policy, the same Tory thinkers are pushing extraordinary proposals that will give those same outstanding schools a guarantee that they will never again face a full Ofsted inspection, as long as they maintain results and keep parents happy.

We are not suggesting that Scotland should slavishly emulate England - or indeed any other education system. And the prospect of business people, or even philanthropists, sponsoring academy schools is not one that fills us with optimism. But the debate in Scotland has tended to centre on narrow managerial issues - how much control should local councils cede, or how many education authorities should there be?

The issue we need to concentrate on, urgently, is how we ensure that pupils perform to their potential in a stimulating educational environment. In an age of austerity when many schools will struggle to maintain, never mind enhance, standards, now is the time to explore the academy approach - which also includes high-performing schools, colleges and universities "taking over" their weaker brethren. That keeps it in the public-sector family. As was pointed out in another context this week, what matters is what is effective: if it is also innovative, that is a bonus.

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

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