Editor's comment

3rd September 2010 at 01:00

As we all should know, the Scottish Reformation took off 450 years ago last month. Among many other things, it gave learning a central place: almost every parish had a free school, Scotland developed one of the highest literacy levels in Europe and the Reformation paved the way for the Scottish Enlightenment. How ironic, then, if this anniversary should also be marked by the dismantling of one of the central tenets of that revolution. The bankers may yet undo the work of the theologians.

The current threats to learning are not just about teachers fighting to preserve their terms and conditions in the face of draconian cuts (p1), although we know the mantra that the working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions of pupils. They are about the value placed on learning and the consequences of ignoring it. A spokesperson for the Scottish Police Federation said this week that cutting police budgets would have unique knock-on effects by increasing spending on the courts, social work and prisons. Much the same argument could be made for education: our prisons are filled with illiterates.

There is now creeping desperation as the authorities search for cuts where, as the sage put it, people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Cherry-picking the most expensive conditions in the teachers' armoury does not look like a considered response. The news this week that the much-maligned Scottish Futures Trust has been able to save the nation millions in school building costs shows the power of rather more creative thinking.

We can only wonder what the reformers would have made of the trimming of the tree of knowledge (subject cuts), removing schools from every parish (closures) or diminishing the importance of bettering oneself (no CPD in school time). The legacy of centuries should not be lightly overturned.

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

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