Keep going for the common cause

5th April 2013 at 01:00

Last week, education secretary Michael Russell gave a lecture to an invited audience at the University of Glasgow on the progress that had been made in Scottish education since devolution. He talked of the cross-party consensus on trying to close the gap between the most deprived and the most affluent in our society. And he spoke of how the Commission on School Reform had reported that our education system was good but no longer great. His government could change that, he said, and achieve equity and success under independence (page 6).

The specific areas to which he referred have been tracked by TESS over the past few years - Curriculum for Excellence, national policies on class sizes, teacher numbers and quality, partnerships between schools, the latest means to drive up attainment, parental involvement and leadership at all levels.

In the drive for equity, Mr Russell highlighted the government policy of Getting It Right For Every Child and stressed the importance of the word "every" at its heart. This week's TESS reflects the greater or lesser extent to which that has been achieved so far - in 3-18 schools (page 5), in computing science (page 7), even in a letter on the "bedroom tax" (page 30). In particular, we focus on school leavers moving into the world of work.

Modern apprenticeships have developed rapidly under the current administration and are transforming the lives of many (pages 10-13). Apprentices and employers alike have expressed satisfaction with the scheme. But there is still a long way to go. While the proportion of young women doing apprenticeships has risen to 43 per cent, they are usually in less well paid jobs.

For women, ethnic minorities, children in the most deprived areas, or young people with disabilities, equity is a long way off. And these are groups that leading figures in further education fear will be hardest hit under the current restructuring of the FE sector (page 8).

At the Hidden Gardens in Glasgow, a different type of support is being given to school-leavers with complex learning difficulties. With the help of volunteers and a Glasgow charity, Fair Deal, they are being shown how to fend for themselves, how they too can make a contribution to society through gardening, growing vegetables and cooking. Step by step they are being led towards the world of work: "If they're great at making scones, we want them to get a job making scones. It doesn't matter if they can't clean the tables afterwards." (pages 16-19)

From small steps like these to large schemes across the country, differences are being made by individuals of all political hues. Whether it's partnerships between schools or partnerships within communities, it is, to borrow Ken Cunningham of School Leaders Scotland's phrase, about people working together to serve the common cause.

Gillian Macdonald, Editor, gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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