'English schools best, not Scottish'

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A LEADING Scottish education academic has claimed England's schools are the best in Britain.

Lindsay Paterson, professor of educational policy at EdinburghUniversity, described the idea of Scotland having the best education system was "one of the great education myths".

He said: "Unintentionally, a vast experiment that tests some of these claims has been conducted since 1997 as policies in the four nations have diverged since devolution.

"What is little realised, and never celebrated, is that the clear winner in this is the much- disdained England."

He said England had done much to fund a multiplicity of types of school, such as specialist schools, and was sceptical of the standardising effect of council control.

He said: "England's education system may still have its problems. There may be more pressure on children and teachers than ever before. There may be types of diversity and places where competition has undermined moral.

"But the essential point is that attainment in England has improved much more than in the other three nations."

He pointed to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss) which saw Scotland fare far worse in science than many other western nations.

Last June, the Scottish Survey of Achievement (SSA) revealed too few P4-P7 pupils attained expected levels in science. And no improvement had been made in four years.

However, teachers disagreed with Professor Paterson, insisting the lack of disparity in Scotland was a great strength.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said: "Grammar schools in England probably do have a very high standard of education. But what about all the others?

"Some of the education systems in England are appalling. Children of seven and eight are being sent home stressed because they are undergoing national testing."

A key strength and fundamental philosophy of Scottish education was its equality and comprehensiveness so everyone had the same chances, she said, adding: "It (the comprehensive system] is one of our strengths. One of the problems with English education is it depends almost entirely where you live what kind of school you go to.

"If you are lucky enough to go to a grammar school you are probably going to get a very decent education. But some of the ordinary secondary schools are dreadful and the academy system is appallingly dangerous.

"It means someone with money and an ideology can buy into a new-build school and then have a say in what the curriculum teaches. A lot of these people absolutely have a vested interest where they teach fundamental Christianity."

A Scottish Government spokes-woman said: "We do not believe that the approach taken in England is what is best for Scotland.

"By encouraging schools to opt out of local authority control, the education system risks becoming fragmented and socially divided."

DIFFERENT EDUCATION SYSTEMS

SCOTTISH education has been fundamentally based on the idea of a fully comprehensive system.

The underlying philosophy aimed towards a system where every child is guaranteed the same quality of education.

This was the thinking behind the Standard grade exam introduced in the 1980s with the idea of certification for all.

Scottish teenagers take up to five Highers, compared to a maximum of three A-levels in England, with the idea that more subjects boost future choices.

In Scotland there is little choice between types of school, apart from state and fee-paying private schools, as state schools are simply divided into non-denominational and Catholic faith schools, and catchment areas are far stricter.

The idea is for every child to have an equivalent education. But critics say the rich can afford expensive homes near good schools giving them advantage.

VARIED SCHOOL LANDSCAPE

SOUTH of the Border, various government initiatives over the years have been abandoned by successive administrations, leaving a varied landscape for schools.

There are grant-maintained and grant-aided schools, which are the product of an attempt to free schools to manage their own funding free from local authority control.

Beacon schools were created in the late 1990s as a designation for schools which demonstrated good practice and which could help other schools improve, but were later abandoned.

Academy schools were a more recent New Labour scheme to attract private investment in building new schools, controversially in return for a say on what they taught children.

Grammars, which only take children who achieve a certain level in the controversial primary seven tests, known as Sats, remain in England despite being scrapped in Scotland.