The majority is clear, but the future isn't

13th May 2011 at 01:00

Is this the new dawn we predicted last week? For the voters who returned the SNP with a majority that was never meant to be feasible under the Scottish parliamentary system, it would appear to be. It should certainly make the fulfilment of manifesto promises on education easier.

So, presumably, we can look forward to a pound;50 million Sure Start fund, increased childcare support, expanding free school meals, a renewed emphasis on literacy and numeracy, two languages for every child in addition to their mother tongue, Scottish studies in schools (history, literature, Scots and Gaelic, culture and current affairs), a pound;50m Young Scots fund for sport, enterprise and creativity, and continuing free higher education. Who's to stop them - unless of course the sums don't add up? Then there's the further roll-out of Curriculum for Excellence, the pressing ahead with smaller classes, the reform of school governance (TESS, 22 April) .

It's a massive agenda for education, to be achieved on a shrinking budget. It will be all the more crucial that any legislation undergoes careful scrutiny from whatever checks and balances the parliamentary committee can still provide. While this has worked well in the past, with education conveners like Labour's Karen Whitefield earning praise from all sides, there is now no requirement on the SNP to give these positions to opposition parties. How well legislative details will be hammered out will depend on who the key players are. The big money is on Michael Russell following through his agenda as Education Secretary, with Ken Macintosh a possible shadow spokesman for Labour, but the full picture may not emerge until next week (p6).

One of the biggest issues facing them will be the reorganisation of local authorities. Two weeks ago, Michael Russell told TESS: "I'm sure local authorities are appropriate delivery mechanisms, but there will need to be reform as to how education is delivered in Scotland." Interpret that as you will.

David Cameron's report on devolved school management still needs to be issued officially by the government. How important consensus with Cosla, the local authorities' umbrella body, will now be to a government with such a clear majority has yet to be tested.

One education consitituency being hit hard by local authority cuts is the quality improvement service featured in this week's News Focus (p12). Quality improvement officers have played a valuable role in helping schools to implement new policies, improve standards and provide the necessary continuing professional development. But they are not loved unreservedly by the headteachers who look set to gain more power under the new government. As devolution towards schools increases, along with devolution towards a Scottish Government, teachers may have to look more to themselves and their cluster schools for this kind of support.

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

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