Labour promises pragmatic ministry

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Brian Wilson, in his first outing as Education Minister, has pledged to rid teachers of "bureaucracy and impediments" to classroom learning and offer a "pragmatic and commonsense" way ahead. "You only need a permanent revolution if there is something rotten in the system," Mr Wilson told school board leaders at their annual conference in Glasgow last Saturday.

Mr Wilson said he was unique among recent ministers in sending his children to state schools, of which he was a product. His wife is a school board chairman.

He hoped to establish a framework to allow teachers to do their job effectively and promised to publish information, currently held by the Scottish Office, about the backlog of maintenance work for schools, estimated by officials at pound;200 million. "People are doing a wonderful job in difficult circumstances," he said.

Scottish education was "basically sound" with good founding principles. "All I want to do really is to create a structure, or leave alone a structure, in which teachers can get on and do the job. I want to rebuild the atmosphere and ensure Scottish education is something we all can be very proud of," he stated.

Mr Wilson said the manifesto commitment to introduce school commissions in place of boards and widen their base was not ruled out, although it would only happen after widespread consultation.

"Much of the early suspicion was based on the concern that school boards would be used as staging posts towards opting out. The good sense of Scottish parents largely forestalled that possibility. Now that it has been formally removed, there is no vestige of ambiguity about school boards. They exist to support schools and strengthen links between pupils, staff, parents and the community."

He added: "I am much more worried about schools which have no parental involvement than schools that do."

A "pragmatic approach" lay behind decisions to phase out assisted places and nursery vouchers. "There will be no U-turns, just one straight line - what is best for all our children," he said.

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