John Swinney accused of education `omnishambles’

Education Secretary John Swinney
Education Secretary John Swinney
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John Swinney has been accused of presiding over an education “omnishambles” amid suggestions he is to U-turn on flagship school reforms and reports of unfilled teacher training places.

Labour directed the accusation at the Education Secretary as it also emerged that the Scottish schools inspectorate had deleted information on historical school inspections.

Mr Swinney is expected to announce a climbdown on his plans to reduce the influence of councils in the way schools are run by creating new regional bodies to support school improvement.

The Education Secretary is understood to have struck a compromise deal with Stephen McCabe, Cosla education spokesman, that will ensure local authorities keep a stake in the improvement agenda.

In return, councils will have to show the new arrangements are for the benefit of schools and that headteachers are being given enough support.

The about-turn came as figures provided by universities showed that more than 200 places on post-graduate teacher training courses for secondary subjects have not been filled. The number of vacancies is the equivalent of a quarter of the total.

The courses started last month but almost four in ten places for English have not been taken up. There are also shortfalls in music, biology and modern language courses.

Meanwhile, Education Scotland has been accused of a “wilful attempt to frustrate transparency” after it emerged the organisation no longer had information relating to school inspections carried out before 2008.

It has also started deleting school inspection reports that are more than five years old from the publicly accessible section of its website.

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “This is humiliating for John Swinney. This is not an instance of one policy failure, but rather an omnishambles across the education portfolio.
 “John Swinney has u-turned on one of his flagship reforms to education, been caught spinning nonsense on teacher training places and deleted years’ worth of school inspections data.
 “When Nicola Sturgeon made education her top priority John Swinney was supposed to be the safe pair of hands to push through reform. Instead he has constantly dropped the ball on education.”

Responding to the teacher training vacancies, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that we have the right number of teachers, with the right skills, in the right places to educate our young people. We recognise that some councils face challenges in relation to teacher recruitment, as do universities recruiting teaching students, and we are committed to addressing these challenges with our partners.

 “For our part we have increased student teacher intake targets for the sixth year in a row, and we are setting targets to train teachers in the subjects where they are needed most.  We have delivered a successful recruitment campaign, and we will build on this with a refreshed campaign which launched at the end of August.   This year alone we have invested £88 million so every school can access the right number of teachers, and £1 million from the Attainment Scotland Fund has also been made available to support 11 new innovative routes into teacher education.”

 On the loss of inspection data, the spokeswoman added: “We expect agencies and public ‎bodies to have robust data management procedures in place. The Interim Chief Inspector of Education has made clear his intention to review and strengthen Education Scotland’s processes.”

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