International advisory group calls for education improvements

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ClassroomImage source, Getty Images

More needs to be done to improve the way some subjects are taught in Scotland's schools, according to a government panel of education experts.

The Scottish government advisors also said efforts to raise attainment should not result in the broader development of a child being overlooked.

Education Secretary John Swinney has made it clear he expects the group to challenge him on policy and delivery.

The panel was set up after last year's Holyrood elections.

It includes members from Australia, the US, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Malaysia and the UK.

The recommendations are contained in a report produced by the government's international council of education advisers following its most recent meeting in Edinburgh in February.

'Whole child'

Its role is to come up with ideas for improvements and challenge the government.

The short report warned that there was a risk that one of the main aims of Curriculum for Excellence could be lost as a result of the way plans to drive up performance are implemented.

Curriculum for Excellence is about more than a child's academic performance and is designed to help ensure attention is paid to the development of the "whole child" - for example helping children grow into confident individuals and citizens.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Curriculum for Excellence was designed to develop the "whole child"

The government has also set up the National Improvement Framework to drive up academic performance.

Its key aims include improving literacy and numeracy and closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children.

The report said that the Curriculum for Excellence and the National Improvement Framework shared a clear and positive narrative.

However, it expressed concern that there was a risk of moving away from the "whole child" approach towards concentrating on one that was easier to measure.

It highlighted three priority areas:

  • Improving the method and practice of teaching in specific subjects.
  • Developing effective leadership at all levels in education.
  • Ensuring there is a culture of collaboration within schools at regional and national levels.

The report stressed that there was evidence of collaborative intent within the system, but said that this was uneven and not sufficiently ingrained.

The report also warned that the government should not become too focused on changing the structure of the education system - it said the more important aspects were arguably culture and capacity.

The government recently announced plans to give head teachers more official powers.

Some members of the panel had previously told BBC Scotland that changing the structure of the system would not in itself improve performance.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "We value the council's expertise, robust challenge and input into our policy thinking, and our decision to further empower schools and teachers took their advice into account alongside other evidence."

A formal report on the actions required by the Scottish government to deliver its vision for education is expected to be produced by the advisors next year.

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