By PAUL GILBRIDE
School reforms over the past 50 years have failed Scotland’s poorest children, according to a major report.
The Commission on School Reform says many changes over the years, including raising the school leaving age, the launch of Standard Grade exams and comprehensive schools, have not had the success expected of them.
With an estimated one in five school leavers having few or no qualifications and poor skills in basic literacy and numeracy, the system has failed to make a significant improvement to the exam results of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Among its 37 recommendations are that schools should be given greater autonomy from local authorities, including the power to spend their budgets “without strings attached”.
The Commission report, Diverse Means: Improving Scottish Education, says fundamental changes are needed to empower schools and better serve pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It recommends a shift in the role of councils which, in many cases, are too involved with the day-to-day management of schools.
Such a shift could give head teachers greater control over areas such as recruiting and retaining talented teachers.
The report noted: “While Scotland may be improving, it is improving more slowly than others. Scotland’s school system can no longer be described as world-leading.
“To some extent, its reputation is based on history rather than contemporary performance. Compared with countries such as Finland, Singapore or China, which have radically improved their schools in a relatively short period of time, change in Scotland is slow, difficult to achieve and seldom brings the rewards promised.”
The commission, chaired by educationalist Keir Bloomer, was set up in 2011 by think tanks Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy. Mr Bloomer said yesterday the changes are needed to address “deep-seated problems” with the schooling system, which have developed over decades.He added: “Scotland’s schools do an excellent job. The standard of education they provide is high and it is remarkably consistent across the country.
“But they are no longer world- leading. If we want to be back again in the position of being the world’s best, then there is no alternative but to make some quite significant changes.”
Education Secretary Michael Russell said: “Scottish education is working and I am determined to do everything I can to ensure progress continues to be made.”