Scotland begs to differ, Mr Blair

4th November 2005 at 00:00
There could be no clearer evidence of the divergent thinking about education reform than the package for England unveiled by the Prime Minister last week, and the response of the Education Minister for Scotland (page four).

Yet the direction of travel, as ministers are fond of describing it, is couched in remarkably similar language - empowering parents, freeing schools from central controls and improving standards.

The differences, however, are rather more stark than the similarities. The agenda in Scotland is strongly driven by the desire to make a difference in the classroom (whatever views there may be about the detail) - and, in that respect, it is firmly in line with the prognosis offered this week by President Clinton's former adviser (page eight). In England, by contrast, there is still a constant urge to dig up the foundations. Even one of the Prime Minister's former advisers has said that success comes with supporting what happens in the classroom, rather than getting hung up on structures.

England has extremes of performance which will always tempt politicians to opt for radical answers - before they are reined in by educational realities. Scotland, however, retains a greater cohesion which prizes community. Mrs Thatcher was once quoted as saying that "there is no such thing as society". Mr Blair may in effect be saying that, in educational terms, "there is no such thing as community". Scotland begs to differ.

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