In the Herald today:
Efforts to drive up classroom standards and close the poverty-related attainment gap are being seriously hampered by the “iron cage” of institutional bureaucracy, according to one of Scotland’s leading education thinkers. Walter Humes has warned that a “lack of openness” to new ideas and resistance to deep change from bodies such as schools watchdog Education Scotland (ES) and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) are likely to stymie attempts to boost pupil performance.
Professor Walter Humes is wrong. I’ll come back to how but, first, I must make clear that Prof Humes is the real thing, unlike those many not-really profs I regularly rage against in the Tusker. And, he’s a great guy. I knew him. I used to watch him, a Scottish Alan Bennett (can I say that?), utterly and wittily demolish the arguments of people like chief school inspectors.
The Herald introduces his research:
The research seems to be based on the scrutiny of official documents and interviews with people who are ‘really quite senior and well-informed.’
Alarm bells rang when I read that. I feel sure Humes does, in his full report, consider the quantitative evidence of actual attainment statistics over time but, going by the Herald report, it looks heavily reliant on the opinion of one elite group which feels disenfranchised from the power held by another similar group.
I don’t doubt Humes is correct in pointing to bureaucratic and managerial tendencies inhibiting change. That’s everywhere and maybe he is right that the Education Secretary John Swinney, who he clearly likes, as do I, has been left dismayed by that but, nevertheless, parts of the attainment gap are closing.
‘94.4% of pupils had a ’positive destination’ including work, training or further study within three months of leaving school last year, official statistics show. The figures also reveal that the gap between those from the most and least deprived communities achieving a positive destination has halved since 2009/10, with an increase in positive destinations for school leavers, from both backgrounds. Over the same period there have been increases at all levels of attainment – the qualifications young people are achieving. For the first time more than 30% of pupils left school with a minimum of five passes at Higher Level or better, up from 22.2% in 2009/10. The gap between those from the most and least deprived areas achieving a pass at Higher Level or better is now at a record low, reducing for the eighth successive year.’
And, there is much to be pleased about beyond this obsession with the gap:
From Glasgow’s Director of Education, Maureen McKenna, who might know a bit about this:
This is a response to all that guff about things in Scottish education being terrible. There are a lot of people painting a very negative picture. We are not saying everything is rosy but what we are saying is that there are a range of statistics out there that point to another side, that create a different narrative.
65% The reduction in exclusions nationally between 2006-07 and 2018-19.
22.3% The proportion of pupils achieving five or more awards at Higher or equivalent by the end of S5. This has almost doubled since 2009-10, when the figure was 11.3 per cent
44.4% Proportion of school leavers in the most deprived areas of Scotland achieving at least one Higher or equivalent in 2017-18. In 2012-13 that figure stood at 34.9 per cent
62.2% Proportion of school leavers gaining at least one Higher or equivalent in 2017-18, compared to 55.8 per cent in 2012-13.