Scottish Labour launches 'timetable for ambition' for education reform

Scottish Labour has put forward a ‘timetable for ambition’ in response to a report by the OECD that sparked pledges of sweeping reforms to Scotland’s education system.

Labour has said the OECD report amounts to a damning critique of the reforms championed by the Scottish Government and has called on all parties to support its proposal and demands for immediate action.

The report, published on Monday, found Scottish teachers spend too much time in the classroom, while there is a “misalignment between CfE’s [Curriculum for Excellence] aspirations and the qualification system” in the senior phase of secondary education in Scotland.

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It also called for a better balance between breadth and depth of learning throughout CfE, for the government to overhaul the existing exams and assessment system, and for the development of a “systematic approach” to the review of the curriculum.

Scottish Labour's education secretary Michael Marra has called for "immediate action" following the OECD report
Scottish Labour's education secretary Michael Marra has called for "immediate action" following the OECD report

The party’s timetable for the implementation of the OECD’s proposals includes an immediate negotiation on a new deal for teachers, the establishment of an independent Inspectorate by the end of the week and the creation of an interim body for assessment and curriculum by mid-next month, while consultation on a new permanent body takes place.

The timetable also states the chairs of the new inspectorate and permanent assessment and curriculum bodies should be parliamentary appointments.

In Holyrood this afternoon, education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville was quizzed about whether she would consider reforming “senior phase” exams to include more coursework and other methods of assessments rather than formal exams.

MSP Fiona Hyslop said that a call from Glasgow council’s director of education Maureen McKenna for a “big debate” in whether teachers’ continuous assessments should play a bigger role in final grades.

Ms Somerville said that no decisions had been taken yet and she would await the publication of a second report by the OECD in August.

She said: “When that comes through, I will absolutely commit to engaging with stakeholders, including of course Maureen McKenna if she wishes to do so, to discuss future plans for senior phase, qualifications and awards.”

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Scottish Labour education spokesperson Michael Marra said: “The SQA’s handling of the last two years has been disastrous. Thousands of young Scots have suffered as a result.

"The SQA [Scottish Qualifications Authority] leadership have lost the confidence of Parliament, government and the public. They simply cannot be allowed to preside over the next year of our national qualifications.

“The SNP has decided that the SQA should go at some point in the future after another review by yet another committee. We know it has to change, and an interim independent leadership of the SQA and Education Scotland can help rebuild trust immediately.

"The SNP’s timetable amounts to more dither and delay – that inability to lead has been a huge part of the problem with decisions on exams delayed, assessments delayed, appeals delayed. Pupils and education staff have been left in limbo."

He added: “If we are to realise the full potential of Curriculum of Excellence, and by extension the pupils of Scotland, we need to act now.

“We must learn the lessons of the OECD report so that, once again, Scotland can lead the world in education.”

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