Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Back to School

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Former education minister Brian Wilson had some interesting things to say in this article for The Times recently in which he stressed the need for early intervention to tackle educational deprivation.

Here are two key paragraphs: 

It need not be like this. In 1997, my first visit as Scottish education minister was to a primary school in Edinburgh where early intervention was being piloted. The education convener of Lothian region, Elizabeth Maginnis, insisted on my witnessing the remarkable results of an initiative that involved a battery of measures to combat handicaps that children inherited in home environments where parents had suffered the same cycle of educational deprivation.

The message was straightforward. Early intervention worked but was extremely resource-intensive. It depended upon links between homes and schools to help parents who desperately wanted something better for their children. It certainly involved children entering the system as soon as possible through massive extension of pre-school provision. It demanded classroom assistants, additional needs staff and smaller class sizes so that every child could have optimum attention in these crucial early years.

Being a former politician Brian can't resist the temptation to have a kick at the SNP, but I agree with his general point and on the need to concentrate extra resources in areas where they most needed.

If you ask me, too much of Scottish education has a 'one size fits all approach' which fails to address the real issues and challenges.  



Education policy needs to go back to school
By Brian Wilson - The Times

University access is a sideshow. It is in the early years that our children’s futures are set

There was so much negative data about Scottish education in the closing weeks of 2016 that it was inevitable some elements would receive less attention than they merited. In particular, the focus on university access obscures far more fundamental problems that condition all subsequent outcomes.

Scotland’s record on sending youngsters from less well-off backgrounds to university is now worse than England’s, despite the boastful rhetoric about “free tuition”. A system has developed that subsidises the better-off, further disadvantages poor kids and is leading most Scottish universities into financial crisis. That is quite a triple whammy in the guise of “egalitarianism”.

Postcode quotas for university entrance will not redress the balance. As Lucy Hunter Blackburn, the University of Edinburgh researcher on student finance, points out, the probable result will be to displace students from only slightly better-off backgrounds than those of the intended beneficiaries. In any case, half of disadvantaged Scottish youngsters live outside the 40 per cent of postcodes that are the target.

Such a strategy might convey the impression of activity while achieving next to nothing. The far bigger issue is that, regardless of cosmetic measures, a substantial and growing proportion of Scotland’s schoolchildren enter the education system with as much chance of visiting outer space as of ever seeing the inside of a university. Only when their prospects are improved will there be anything remotely “equal” about our education system.