'Light touch' for national priorities

29th June 2001 at 01:00
THE Scottish Executive is to draw up performance indicators to measure how well schools and local authorities are implementing the national priorities for education.

The Education Minister promised this week that the priorities would "simplify the policy framework for schools, rather than add another layer of complexity".

Jack McConnell was responding to pleas from a national workshop held in Edinburgh last week. Participants, who included the unions, authorities and parents, were concerned, according to Mr McConnell in a speech this week, "that we should remain focused on year-on-year improvement in the outcomes of education, rather than focusing on detailed control of the process from the centre".

He promised he would pursue this "light touch" policy, based on the premise that "the best targets are those that we set for ourselves".

In a speech to a conference on the national priorities in Edinburgh on Monday, Mr McConnell added: "I want teachers to be clear about the power they have to innovate and adapt learning and teaching to best meet the needs of their pupils. This is not about new initiatives, but about a new approach. I will be developing that new approach further over the coming year."

The national priorities and the local improvement plans, which will be based on them, are none the less statutory requirements for schools, authorities and government, laid down in last year's education Act.

The time-scale is that the performance indicators will be published in the autumn, local improvement plans by December and school development plans taking account of both by next June.

It was clear from the conference Mr McConnell was addressing, however, that few of those attending - who were leading figures from schools - had any clear idea about the national priorities, which were issued last November. The minister may now be forced to relaunch them.

The five priorities cover achievement and attainment, a framework for learning which includes pupil discipline and teachers' skills, inclusion and equality, values and citizenship and learning for life.

Having set that framework, Mr McConnell says he wants schools to have "a diversity of approach".

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