Radical education reforms are absolutely the right thing to do

In my last column, I looked ahead to a very important statement that Education Secretary John Swinney was due to make in Parliament, about reforming the way our schools are governed.

I couldn’t give too much away, but I promised it would be bold and radical.

I hope that everyone who has now seen it would agree.

There’s a lot to be positive about in our education system. Exam passes are at a record high. Historically high numbers of kids are leaving school and going into employment, education or further training.

The gap in attainment between those in lowest-income households and those at the top is narrowing.

But that gap isn’t closing as fast as we would like it to.

And I’ve been absolutely upfront about the challenges we face – particularly in literacy and numeracy.

We decided some time ago that the way our schools are run needs to be changed radically – but wanted to take time to get this process right, and we wanted to cast our net far and wide for fresh thinking.

We established an international Council of Education Advisers – which brings together a wide range of experts to guide our thinking.


I’ve visited inner-city schools in London and New York, where I’ve seen some pretty radical and impressive approaches.

And closer to home, over the last few months we’ve carried out an extensive consultation – with teachers, practitioners, professional bodies, and – perhaps most importantly – parents.

After all the talking, it was time to decide how best to improve our schools.

What we have settled on is, fundamentally, a very simple idea: we will put more power – and more money – in the hands of schools and teachers.

We are going to push power downwards from local authorities and into the hands of headteachers.

They’ll be responsible for raising attainment and closing the poverty-related gap among their pupils.

But they will also choose their staff and the management structure, have a say on the curriculum content and have a far greater say on school funding.

Parents will also be given a far greater say, with enhanced parent councils and new home-to-school workers who will help improve parent participation from families that don’t always find it easy to engage in their child’s education.

And schools will also be required to ensure that children are given more of a voice in their education.

Of course, none of this can be successful if the teaching profession itself is not the best it can be.

We’ve heard a lot from teachers about the need to reduce their workload, and also their frustration about the lack of career opportunities.


Teachers are responsible for delivering learning and development opportunities for the next generation – and it’s perhaps ironic that they don’t always get access to similar opportunities for themselves.

So we’re going to work with the profession to produce more career development opportunities for teachers – allowing them to specialise and rewarding their leadership skills.

Putting power in the hands of schools, giving parents and communities a greater say, and freeing teachers to teach – the changes we’re proposing are the most radical shake-up in our school system in decades.

But these radical reforms are absolutely the right thing to do.

Our plans are unashamedly ambitious – and frankly, when it comes to our kids’ education, there should be no limits on our ambitions.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.