WIllis Pickard sets out the key objectives of Labour's White Paper on modernising Scotland's schools
SELLING THE VISION
THE White Paper states that it will be up to the Scottish parliament to consider in detail how it wishes to take forward the proposals. In the meantime the Government wants to stimulate wide-ranging discussion and hopes that everyone will "share its vision of what is necessary to ensure that our school system is a world leader - a system to which people outside Scotland look for ideas and examples of good practice and a system in which levels of attainment compare favourably with any other system".
There will be a national parents' convention along the lines of parent forums in some education authorities and improved access to information on complaints procedures, policies on bullying, exclusions, education appeal committees, homework, the role of boards and placing requests.
The Government together with school boards will review information about the scope of boards and introduce new training materials. It will ensure that boards know of their ability to invite experts and other advisers to attend and their statutory right to seek further powers. Election should be made easier and less intimidating. The by-election stage will be removed.
The skills Scotland will need to be successful in the knowledge economy of the future can and should be fostered in schools. "The vital C in ICT is cause for much excitement. Never before has it been possible to put at the disposal of education such a powerful tool and the effects on learning will be far reaching."
New guidelines on improving work experience and on careers education will be prepared, and schools should consider integrating work-related initiatives into the curriculum.
AGENDA FOR EXCELLENCE
Early years * A new statutory duty on local authorities to secure pre-school provision in their area.
* A clearer framework for children's services.
* A self-evaluation guide to quality standards for childcare and pre-school centres.
* Improved links between pre-school and primary.
* A framework of qualifications in the early years and childcare sector.
* Identifying and disseminating best practice.
Excellence in learning * Focusing clearly on improving learning in S1S2.
* Improving links between primaries and secondaries.
* Reviewing the options for testing and assessment under 5-14.
* Supporting further specialist provision in schools.
* Piloting a new achievement statement to record children's achievements at S2.
* Developing primary teachers' skills in science teaching.
* Addressing the relative underachievement of boys.
Knowledge economy * Consulting on a strategy to ensure that schools, further and higher education and communities can all benefit from the National Grid for Learning.
* New guidelines on work experience and careers education.
* Expanding the education for work and enterprise agenda.
Parents, children and the school community * Improving information and advice for parents.
* New guidance on complaints for schools and education authorities.
* Piloting personal learning plans.
* Making school boards more effective through training and support.
* Improving consultation with school boards and parents.
* Removing the by-election stage from the school board election process.
* Facilitating a national parents' convention.
Ethos of achievement * Continuing the expansion of the Scottish Schools Ethos Network.
* Reviewing existing guidance on homework to ensure that each school has an effective policy.
* Continuing to focus on promoting positive discipline.
* Establishing a new independent advice service for children and families with special educational needs.
* Reviewing alternatives to the present structure of the school year and school day.
Teaching * Strengthening the professionalism of teachers through better initial training, a more coherent probation period and a system of continuous professional development.
* All teachers to have a performance review by June this year.
* Consulting on the machinery for determining pay and conditions.
* Scottish Qualification for Headship mandatory for aspiring heads.
* General Teaching Council to have the power to deregister teachers who have been dismissed by local authorities and cannot meet professional standards.
Targeting excellence * Establishing a framework for addressing underperformance.
* Investing pound;15 million to support education action plans for schools facing significant challenges.
* Considering a new statutory framework of key principles, including a duty for education authorities and schools to plan for improvement and set targets in specified areas, a duty for local authorities to establish a transparent funding framework and statutory inspection and evaluation of education authorities.
* Powers will be reserved for Scottish ministers to address continuing underperformance in schools.