Book extract: 'Class Rules, The Truth About Scottish Schools'

In this extract from his hard-hitting new book “Class Rules, The Truth About Scottish Schools”, James McEnaney doubts the Scottish Government has the courage to own up to mistakes it has made in educational policy and the impact on teachers and pupils, many of which were raised in a recent OECD report.

"Unfortunately, the government’s immediate response was not at all encouraging. Their press release was headlined ‘OECD review backs school curriculum’ and went on to focus largely on the low-hanging fruit of replacing the SQA and removing school inspection functions from Education Scotland. There appeared to be little, if any, serious engagement with the extensive criticisms that the report presented.

"It is true that the government has stated that it will ‘accept in full’ all 12 of the OECD recommendations, but their genuine commitment to the sorts of reforms that are so badly needed remains to be seen.

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"A little more than 24 hours after the report was published, the education secretary announced that work to replace and reform the SQA and Education Scotland would be led by Ken Muir, a respected former head of the national regulatory body for teachers who is, nonetheless, undoubtedly from the heart of Scotland’s existing educational establishment.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Robert Perry - WPA Pool/Getty Images

"Assurances have also been given that the Scottish Education Council will be reconvened, that a Children and Young People’s Education Council will be established, and that the government ‘will work alongside all partners to co-design a more detailed implementation plan on the OECD’s recommendations’ – but given that their first instinct was to spin the report to make them look as good as possible, and bearing in mind their track record, we should probably guard against too much optimism at this stage.

“The problem is simple. If the OECD report is correct (and it is) then years of SNP policy have been wrong, and if things are going to get better then an honest recognition of that fact, and some apologies, are going to be required.

"For us to make progress, the government would have to admit that they were completely wrong to impose standardised testing while scrapping the SSLN (literacy and numeracy sample tests), and that doing so reduced rather than enhanced the quality of Scotland’s education data.

"They would have to accept that they have failed to properly support teachers for at least the last decade and that this has had serious knock-on effects for a whole generation of pupils.

"They would have to concede that they have been defending organisations and an exam system that are not remotely fit for purpose and should now be swept away.

"They would have to own their mistakes rather than blame others. And they would have to confront the fact that all of this has implications for the politician who insisted that she wanted to be judged on her record.

"I am a long way from convinced that the people currently running the Scottish Government and the SNP are big enough or brave enough to do this, although I will, of course, be absolutely thrilled to be proven wrong.”

Class Rules, The Truth About Scottish Schools by James McEnaney will be published by Luath Press later this month, priced £9.99.

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