John Swinney: Scottish education reform means move away from “uniform” schooling

Scottish Government education minister refuses to rule out free schools at SNP 2016 conference

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT’S education minister has indicated that education reform will move Scotland away from a “uniform” schooling system.

Asked by the political editor for The Times newspaper in Scotland, Lindsay McIntosh, about the possibility of introducing so called ‘free schools’ outside of local authority control in Scotland, Swinney said that whilst he agreed with the idea of local authority control of schools in general, he felt that the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) left room for differentiation between schools.

He said: “I believe in a mutual education service administered by local government. That’s foundational to Scottish society, but that doesn’t mean that everything has to be absolutely uniform.”

“I believe in a mutual education service administered by local government. That’s foundational to Scottish society, but that doesn’t mean that everything has to be absolutely uniform.” John Swinney

“After all, curriculum for excellence is based on the principle of teacher judgement, that teachers should be able to form and create the curriculum based on the needs of the pupils in their communities.”

Swinney also said that so called “cluster schools”, which gain greater autonomy on the basis of high standards or specialisation, could be explored.

He said that learning and teaching outcomes were the determinant of how Scotland’s school system would be organised in the future.

John Swinney answers questions at the 2016 SNP conference

In the past two years parents at several schools, including St Joseph’s primary school in Milngavie, have approached the Scottish Government to request that their children’s school become a form of free school that receives funding from the state but is autonomous from local authorities.

Teachers unions and some education experts reject the idea, which they worry could result in English style Academy schools and which have drawn heavy criticism in recent years for low standards.

Investigation: Who is really behind the push for 'autonomous state schools' in Scotland?

Swinney also told the Times fringe event, that in the event of a second independence referendum the SNP would pitch to the centre left .

Asked by CommonSpace if he believed that changing the case for independence, in the light of the changed circumstances since the UK’s vote for Brexit, meant moving it to the right to embrace middle class voters, Swinney said: “The SNP occupies the centre ground on Scottish politics, but that centre ground is on the left.”

Pictures: Scottish Government, CommonSpace

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