Scots 'complacent' over education
Scots should not be complacent about the quality of their education system because of previous achievements, a report has warned.
The report published by Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy said that educational standards in Scotland were good.
But it said the country's international position had slipped over the years.
The report was compiled by a commission set up to assess whether Scotland's schools are meeting pupils' needs.
The commission's chairman, Keir Bloomer - who was also one of the architects of the Scottish government's new Curriculum for Excellence - said the time when Scotland was a world leader in education had passed.
He said: "We should be encouraged about the performance of Scotland's schools. We perform well by international standards and our children, by and large, receive a good standard of education.
"However, we should not delude ourselves about our position or allow ourselves to be complacent.
"Scotland was without doubt a world leader but that time has passed, and in order for it to return we must improve."
Improvements in exam success in Scotland were more modest compared with those in England, the report found.
However, it also said there had been less "grade inflation" in the Scottish system than had been seen south of the border.
Mr Bloomer said the introduction of the new curriculum was a step in the right direction.
He cautioned against taking too gradual an approach to change despite concerns among parents that children were being treated as "guinea pigs".
"Improvements in education need not be incremental, they can be transformational changes which make our children smarter and return our education system to world-leading status," he said.
"We can, and we must, do better."
The Commission on School Reform was set up in November of last year to consider how the school system was meeting the needs of Scotland's youngsters and to make recommendations for improvement.
It concluded that Scotland "cannot hope" to compete in manufacturing and "run of the mill" services offered in other countries.
Developed economies like Scotland's must now find where to add "significant intellectual value", it added, and continue to work to break the link between disadvantaged youngsters and educational success.
Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith welcomed the report, in particular its emphasis on giving headteachers more control and allowing for more diversity in the system.
'Strong track record'
She added: "The obsession with comprehensive education and the one-size-fits all organisation of local authority education departments is clearly not working - neither is the centralisation agenda of so many aspects of the SNP's education policies.
"The central message of this report seems to me to be very clear: there is absolutely no reason why Scottish schools cannot be first class, but the current structures won't allow this to happen, so we need to change them."
Scottish Labour's education spokesman Hugh Henry said: "We cannot afford to be complacent about Scottish education and this evidence should be a wake-up call but sadly it appears education is rapidly sliding down the government's agenda.
"Rather than invest in education, we are seeing teachers undermined, morale dropping among staff and a lack of opportunities being created for young people."
Education Secretary Mike Russell said: "We are working to raise attainment and I've provided advice to every teacher in Scotland based on the expert advice of a group of teachers with a strong track record of improving attainment in a variety of different schools.
"While the latest international comparisons show we have halted the decline in our international performance, I am determined to see us rise back up the rankings.
"It is essential that local authorities and schools take advantage of the opportunities Curriculum for Excellence offers to transform our schools and communicate the benefits of the radical changes to ensure young people are better equipped to succeed."