Scottish education is stagnating but know-it-all leaders won’t give revolutionary thinkers a look in – John McLellan

Occasionally it’s the more restrained criticisms than the stinging attacks which are most effective, and into that bracket falls the assessment of Scottish education by the Social Market Foundation and Our Scottish Future think-tanks, the latter founded by ex-Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:30 pm
Schools are blighted by a culture of micromanagement, teachers overloaded with bureaucracy, and councils that act as a 'brake' on innovation (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

Written by SMF chief economist Aveek Bhattacharya, it agrees with leading educationalist Lindsay Paterson that Scottish schools are not failing but “stagnating”, which for something which was supposed to be First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s top priority doesn’t say much for those of her responsibilities which weren’t.

“There is a remarkable degree of consensus over its cultural malaise,” writes Mr Bhattacharya. “The accounts of academics, journalists, activists and school leaders converge to present a picture of a system that is cautious, conformist, risk averse and stuck in its ways.”

His diagnosis, however, is damning; a culture of micromanagement with teachers overloaded with bureaucracy, councils as a “brake” on innovation, little opportunity to try new methods, rigid inspections, and a lack of research.

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Here in Edinburgh, the most senior education officers are going or have gone so there is an opportunity to lead the way with new thinking by appointing the innovators who the SMF report says are so lacking. The problem is where to find them, and judging by this paper the Scottish state sector is not the place to look.

But in a culture where the council and government is always right, who can identify the people who will smash the stagnating status quo? Revolutionaries won’t even get an interview.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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