Scotland lifts its horizons

11th November 2005 at 00:00
The theme of last Friday's annual Edinburgh Conference, organised by the City of Edinburgh Council and sponsored by The TES Scotland, was "global learning" (page four). Judging by the feedback from the speakers and the audience, there was certainly a goodly measure of learning going on - reinforced with lessons aplenty from other countries. It was salutary, from a Scottish point of view, to find that there were absolutely no references whatever to educational policy and practice from south of the border. We do not intend this to be a reflection of parochial triumphalism: it is the opposite in fact - an indication that Scotland has moved on and recognised that our horizons go beyond the border with England.

The audience had a sense that policy in other countries was in line with the aspirations of Scottish schools - and perhaps with the emerging acknowledgement from politicians here that the imposed policies of the past had not borne the fruit they had been anticipating. Achieving targets is not the same as improving standards.

In short, as we have observed in these columns on many occasions, the emphasis should be on the structures of lessons in the classroom not on the structures of school organisation. Scotland is gradually moving in the former direction, England in the latter. We now have genuine devolution: even if the destination to which UK politicians wish to take schools is sub-stantially the same, the routes are radically different.

The message from Finland was especially powerful, although it can be overplayed: cultural differences make us educationally different too. But the relationship between a fully comprehensive system and successful schools, as Finnish schools undoubtedly are, is a rare experience indeed - certainly in the UK where comprehensives are more used to being dismissed as "bog standard". The consensus from the conference could not be more succinctly expressed than in our page four headline: "Better teachers, better learning, better performance".

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