Analysis

Will anything change with Scotland's education system beyond the names of overseeing bodies?

Relief as decisions are finally taken but much work to do

There will be relief among many in Scottish education that long-awaited reforms appear to be moving forward at last.

Jenny Gilruth had only been education secretary for around three months when she announced in June last year the legislation to replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Education Scotland would be delayed for a year. She also opted not to respond immediately to key reports on the future of Scottish education by Professor Louise Hayward and James Withers.

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Ms Gilruth said she wanted to take time to properly consider the changes to education bodies and how they fitted with the recommendations of such reports.

While muted initially, frustration over the lack of any kind of action has been growing steadily over the months since, intensifying as the performance of Scottish education has come under the spotlight following the nation’s worst ever results in Pisa tests.

The Association of Education Directors in Scotland feared the sheer number of recent reports and recommendations had “paralysed the system”, pleading in November that “now is the time for some brave decisions”.

They have had to wait another six months, but some decisions have now finally been taken, with regard to the reform of education bodies, with more expected imminently on the Hayward proposals on the future of exams and qualifications.

For some of those who work at the SQA and Education Scotland, the publication of the new Education Bill provides some certainty, almost three years after it was announced that the SQA would be scrapped.

The draft legislation confirms the replacement of SQA will be called Qualifications Scotland, while the new inspectorate will be named His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education in Scotland. The danger with these kind of reforms has always been they will be branded an expensive badge-changing exercise, that makes little difference.

Perhaps that worry influenced the decision not to bother changing the name or badge of Education Scotland, as was previously proposed.

Ultimately, it will be up to the leaders of these new organisations to show they are different, which will be easier said than done. But for now, most will just be glad to see some decisions being taken to try to end the prolonged period of paralysis.

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