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Comprehensive schools are not all created equal

Scottish readers will have noted that the interesting feature published on 10 July, "It's 50 years since the birth of comprehensive education. Will it live for another 50?", referred only to England. From the beginning, the English comprehensive school revolution has been different from that in Scotland. Over the past 20 years, England has diversified the governance and institutional form of its secondary schools, whereas Scotland's national debate of 2003 showed a very substantial support for local authority comprehensive schools.

In our recently published book, Everyone's Future: Lessons from 50 years of Scottish comprehensive schooling, we evaluate the experience of Scottish comprehensive secondary schooling using a wide variety of evidence. We also apply some key democratic principles, which underpinned the original reform and which continue to guide Scotland's educational thinking: equality, liberty, fraternity and fairness.

We conclude that comprehensive schooling has worked well for Scotland, although there is work to be done to deliver a genuinely comprehensive education system that could match up to its founding ideals. The government circular establishing comprehensive schooling in Scotland was published on 27 October 1965 and an event marking that 50th anniversary will be held on 27 October 2015 at the University of Edinburgh, based around the findings reported in our book.

Daniel Murphy, Cathy Howieson and Linda Croxford

Senior teaching fellows, University of Edinburgh's Moray House School of Education

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