THE importance that Education Scotland has for Scotland’s schools and, by immediate implication, for Scotland’s future cannot be underestimated.
Having been involved extensively in reviewing evidence on our performance as a nation, our position is clear. We have strengths, but they are not consistently evident in every school or classroom.
We have evidence of achievement in international comparisons, but we are not improving as fast as some other countries. We have strategies and recommendations that should change this position, but these need to be implemented.
We have embarked on Curriculum for Excellence, but recent events suggest that progress could be far from smooth. It is certainly at a critical stage and everyone involved needs to have confidence in its potential benefits if it is to be a success. We need leadership at all levels to make transformational change, but strategic leadership at national level is vital. Education Scotland has the key role in providing it.
It needs to clarify the purpose and vision for Curriculum for Excellence. It needs to hold the ring between all of those to whom learning matters. It then needs to support implementation through offering high-quality training and development for teachers.
Scotland’s schools will need direction. They seem to be faced with a bewildering agenda for change stemming from a series of reviews. They need to be able to see coherence between all of their recommendations and to understand how they should prioritise their demands. Education Scotland needs to take the lead in fulfilling this role.
The responsibility that Education Scotland has for inspection is equally important.
It will be one of the most important voices in setting the climate for Scottish education in the coming years. Successful systems tend to have highly qualified and capable teachers who are trusted to deliver better outcomes for young people. A strong and confident Education Scotland could support the moves in that direction.
The early signs are that this is the way in which the organisation wants to move, but they also need to maintain the confidence of politicians, pupils, parents and the wider community that we do have a system that will prepare our young people for learning, life and work.
If that confidence is not there, we run the risk of reverting to what we have always done and get the outcomes that we currently get, and that won’t be good enough. It needs a strong organisation to get that balance right.
• David Cameron is an education consultant and former president of Association of Directors of Education Scotland.