England reforms driven by ideology, says Russell

21st September 2012 at 01:00

Education secretary Michael Russell has attacked "ideologically driven" exam reform in England and claimed that approaches to schooling on either side of the border are growing ever more divergent.

He used the Scottish Learning Festival - the biggest annual gathering of Scottish teachers - to underline his fundamental opposition to Westminster education secretary Michael Gove's drive towards one- off exams.

"A successful education system can only be built on equity," he said. A guiding principle in Scotland would be tackling the link between deprivation and poor attainment.

Scotland, like Finland, would resist the "global education reform movement" - GERM - to bring about more competition and prescription.

This had "often enticed too many politicians and commentators worldwide" and was "driven by fad and fashion". There was "no evidence" that it made education flourish.

"I'm very clear that GERM is not for Scotland," said Mr Russell. Scotland would instead have "key foundation stones" of "trust and respect for the professionalism of a high-quality teaching workforce" and a long-term perspective, through Curriculum for Excellence.

He noted that, while he could not "read Michael Gove's mind. a lot of the criticism (of English exam reforms) is that they are ideologically driven".

The process of changing exams in Scotland had taken a decade and enjoyed cross-party consensus; even countries taking different approaches to exams, such as Singapore, did so incrementally, he said.

Of England's approach, he said: "The process of change has been very different, the decentralised nature of the system (in Scotland) has been very different, the outcomes are very different."

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk

WHAT RUSSELL SAID

Other ministerial pronouncements:

- On the recent controversy around music fees: "I don't think there is a basis to charge for subjects that are part of the normal curriculum."

- The views of S3 pupils, the first cohort working under CfE for their entire secondary schooling, are to be collated over the coming years and will shape the reform.

- On class sizes: "We have not made the spectacular progress we would like."

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