Scotland lifts its horizons
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".