We all have opinions about independence, and teenagers are entitled to express theirs

27th January 2012 at 00:00
Whatever the outcome, let us not make the same mistakes as those south of the border

The debate about Scotland's possible future independence has ratcheted up quite a few notches, with the referendum date being established and detailed discussion about the process underway. One of the contentious issues is whether or not 16 and 17-year-olds should be given a vote. Interestingly, a film crew visited my own school, Hillhead High, to talk to senior pupils about their preference - the broadcast maintaining a balance with one pupil for and one against.

The case for allowing these young adults a say in their country's future seems to me to be irrefutable - especially in the Curriculum for Excellence context of developing citizenship and responsibility, but what should be regarded, perhaps, as a democratic principle already seems to be clouded by calculations around political advantage, which is a shame.

Teachers across the country will have their own preferences on the key political issue: some favouring independence; some a variation on full autonomy; and others the status quo. What no one will argue for is a return to pre-devolution days, and with good reason.

The EIS, along with other unions, actively supported the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and it is undoubtedly the case that Scottish education has benefited greatly from the stability ushered in by education policy being directed from Edinburgh and not London.

Notwithstanding on-going concerns about workload and timescale, it is simply a fact that the agreement developed around the key principles and aims of Curriculum for Excellence simply could not have happened without the broad political consensus that exists in the Scottish Parliament, regarding the value and worth of our education system.

We need only read the pages of TESS and survey the carnage that appears to be happening in England to realise the protection we enjoy here in Scotland. The antics of Michael Gove, which even outdo the other Michael (Forsyth) when he was Scottish Secretary, may be regarded with justified horror, but at least we are watching from a safe distance.

I suspect there would be major disruption in our schools if we in Scotland were facing an Anglo onslaught of academies, assessment benchmarking, and abolition of the General Teaching Council for Scotland. While there are issues to be addressed around the McCormac review, education in Scotland is in a much better place than it is England, where the teacher trade unions would dearly love to see some of our Scottish agreements and practices replicated.

The electorate will make its decision in due course but should independence prevail, I trust we will not be required to repatriate errant sons such as Mr Gove.

Larry Flanagan, Educational Institute of Education

Larry Flanagan is the EIS education convener.

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