Stay focused, whatever 2014 brings

3rd January 2014 at 00:00

Last year certainly was one of significant change and upheaval for the education sector. The implementation of Curriculum for Excellence continued, colleges were merged and organised into regions, the Post-16 Education Bill was passed and the Children and Young People bill was introduced.

But now that 2013 is over and the new year has begun, it is clear that 2014 is to be welcomed with more than its fair share of excitement and expectation.

It certainly promises to be eventful. Two of the world's biggest sports events - the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup - will come to Scotland, and with them tourists, initiatives and investment.

Only weeks later, Scots from the age of 16 will visit the voting booths to decide whether the country should say yes to independence and go its separate way from the rest of the UK.

But other events will be occupying the minds of teachers, lecturers, students and parents in 2014 at least as much as these historic moments - many of them causing anxiousness and trepidation rather than enthusiasm.

In the coming months, the first cohort of young people to sit the inaugural National 4 and 5 exams will be taking their tests. Henry Hepburn this week reports on the persistent concerns of teachers and school leaders about these new qualifications (see pages 6-7).

Curriculum for Excellence will continue to be embedded, with all the challenges and benefits that entails. And in a few months, the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, chaired by Sir Ian Wood, will publish its recommendations. Building on what has already been set out in the interim report, these are likely to focus on the relationship between educational institutions and the economy.

More change is looming for colleges, too. Coatbridge College will become part of New College Lanarkshire in the latest of a long line of mergers, all of which will no doubt remain challenging for a long time to come. And on 1 April, colleges will be reclassified as public bodies - a transformation whose true implications are not yet clear. All this will take place in an environment of dramatically reduced funding.

Most of us have probably already abandoned the first of our long list of ambitions, good intentions and New Year's resolutions, particularly those involving eating less chocolate and doing more exercise. But other aims should be stuck to more persistently. The challenges that will no doubt present themselves should be seen, as far as possible, as opportunities to be innovative and approach things in a different way.

And as struggles with funding, new structures and qualifications continue, it remains crucial not to lose sight of the most important thing: delivering the best possible education and training to every student in Scotland's school and college classrooms.

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