A truly inclusive education system


The SEAS sees Scottish education has being improved through greater resourcing and support for inclusive education in its broadest sense. Inclusive education would have three underpinning themes: equalities, diversity and equity with a coherent overarching strategy of reducing the impact of poverty.


Labour’s Equality Act 2010 aimed to eradicate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. This is even more important now given the rise in fear, hatred and bigotry evidenced lately. This attention to equalities is missing from Curriculum for Excellence. In the view of the SEAS inclusivity should be part of the content in classrooms from an early stage to challenge stereotypes and narrow thinking. The SEAS thinks schools should consider equalities issues across protected characteristics such as gender, disabilities, race, sexual orientation to a greater extent in content and relationships in schools.

For instance, the Scottish Labour manifesto backed the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, which aims to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in our education system. To tackle bullying of LGBTI young people, Labour should ensure that all teachers receive initial and ongoing training on the issues students face and how to address them. The SEAS supports the idea that new guidance for relationships and sex education is LGBTI inclusive as well as other equality areas. The SNP have neglected to promote fully initiatives to fully “embed equality education within Curriculum for Excellence”. The SEAS would want to see greater attention to equality education as part of global citizenship rather than Tory PREVENT policies implemented in Scotland.


In Scottish education diversity and identity are important determinants of success. The OECD study of Scottish education in 2007 noted that in Scotland

“Who you are in Scotland is far more important than what school you attend, so far as achievement differences on international tests are concerned. Socio-economic status is the most important difference between individuals.” (OECD 2007)

Responding to “Who you are” means embedding equality education in the curriculum and also linking such approaches to ensuring that children’s learning experiences are personalised.

The OECD identified ‘within’ school factors as being crucial to tackling inequalities. Their examples of this focused on policies that played themselves out in classrooms in Scotland. They included curriculum and examinations, teacher values and expectations, teaching style, pupil grouping practices (e.g. setting) and resource allocation practices (which students are allocated to which teachers).

For Scotland, the impact of these factors on learners’ chances mean that:

  • there was a relatively high proportion of young people not in education, employment or training
  • flat staying on rates in secondary schools (often young people are encouraged to leave due to the potential negative impact on a school’s performance)
  • differences in success rates in national qualifications
  • limited growth in transition to further education and social inequalities in higher education

Over the past ten years since that OECD report these issues have not been taken forward as a priority while the SNP have been in control of the Scottish education.


Equity will mean monitoring outcomes in terms of diversity and equalities. Such approaches would raise questions at national, local, school and classroom level as to how as to how to improve outcomes for our diverse population of children and young people. Nationally we are not making sufficient use of smart enough data to consider strengths in the system. For instance Glasgow City Council has made tremendous progress with the attainment of young people from the most deprived 20%. Surely, there is something to learn from this nationally or do we just ignore such successes?

Quality inclusive education is not yet fully successful in Scotland. Working-class children and those with additional support needs do not do as well as they should in our schools. The SEAS sees the need to deliver a strategy for children with additional support needs including those disabilities based on inclusivity, and embed inclusion and approaches to disabilities more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff children and their parents are fully supported. The SEAS believes every child is entitled to the personal support that will enable them to succeed. We support a new role for specialist services and schools to improve education for children with additional support needs arising from autism or mental wellbeing. We view the role of the education authority as vital in this area to provide coherent services to meet every child’s needs.

Schools should be better supported with support teachers and assistants to meet the needs of all. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities places inclusive education as a key factor in Article 24. UNESCO has sustainable development goal 4 as ensuring quality inclusive education and life long learning for all as a global target. Why not in Scotland?

To measure our progress with equalities, inclusion and equity we need smart data linking diversity to equity and the use of information and data in schools that take account of who you are. Over the last few years the SNP have dismissed effective data sources internationally and corrupted their own datasets thus preventing comparison. Hardly surprising given their poor performance and lack of commitment to effective support for all.


Finally the SEAS recognises that poverty is based around social class. Education for all, not just the few needs an effective strategy to combat poverty’s effects and impact. One in three of Scotland’s children still live in poverty.

A future Scottish Labour Government should ensure that there is a national strategy to address poverty. The Government in Wales developed a Child Poverty Strategy which involved all services to children, families and communities in auditing services and ensuring that all policies take account of and develop policies which alleviate poverty. In 2015 this strategy was updated. However an earlier toolkit was helpful in developing a draft strategy in Glasgow in 2009. It will take the involvement of all services to develop and implement a strategy that has a positive impact. Education cannot do it alone. However, it is important that education services involve themselves in the development of a local strategy.

Schools need to understand poverty and the impact of poverty on the living conditions and life chances of children and young people. Sadly, Glasgow still has the greatest number of children in poverty in Scotland with the resultant impact on attainment and achievement. The importance of engaging with employers needs to be more fully recognised and to integrate action on poverty with economic strategy with the caveat that some of the levers remain with UK and Scottish government.

As well as having a comprehensive Early Childhood education and care strategy, there are other factors which should be considered as part of a Child Poverty strategy: food poverty; narrowing the attainment gap; increasing opportunities for adult education and training; “real” positive destinations for school leavers. Reducing the power of education authorities and their effectiveness as a set of council departments working together is an act of vandalism that will not lead to an effective fight against poverty. The SNP and their Tory bedfellows demonstrate little interest in a coherent fight against the impact of poverty.


The Socialist Educational Association in Scotland sees every child is unique.  We are seeking a Scottish Labour-led education 
system that will enable each child and young person to find
 and be offered a personalised learning path and support through
 a wider choice of courses and qualifications.  In Scotland the SEAS support greater investment in supportive measures to close the attainment gap between children from different backgrounds based on approaches steeped in equality and inclusion and resulting in more equitable outcomes.

Margaret McCafferty

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SEAS was saddened to hear of the passing of Margaret McCafferty, Educator, Political Activist and former executive member of the SEA in Scotland for many years.

Margaret taught for many years in John Bosco Secondary in Glasgow’s Gorbals. Margaret was the kind of teacher who always put the young people at the centre of her approach to Education and was someone young people trusted. “Mrs McCafferty” was always available to talk and to listen. Margaret displayed a heightened sense of concern and was a reminder that we neglect the quality and depth of the support that Guidance teachers with the personal touch like Margaret offer to young people facing challenging times in their lives.

In the south side of Glasgow within the Labour Party and Co-operative Party Margaret was renowned. She served as a City councillor for over 10 years for the Battlefield ward and held Executive positions in the CLP and within the Council particularly linked to education and culture.  She shared council membership with Chic, her husband, mentor, love of her life.

Margaret and Chic were both strong supporters of the work of the SEA in Scotland. They were passionate advocates for socialised comprehensive schooling  and keen to emphasise its role in promoting the interests of the communities they served.  Margaret served in various positions in the SEAS.

Her achievements were always underpinned by her straightforward approach, a no-nonsense manner yet so personable, caring and always willing to fight the corner for those in need and those less fortunate. Her socialism was formed out the personal politics of the individual writ large into its wider social significance.

Her humour and laughter will be sadly missed.

On Monday 26th June Mass at St Roberts at 10am, Linn Crematorium at 11am, then onto Loks in Shawlands

No flowers please; donations to Cancer Research in lieu of flowers are the family’s preference.


St Robert Bellarmine Church

310 Peat Road

Glasgow G53 6SA

So where did it all go wrong, John?

So where did it all go wrong, John? The Cabinet Secretary was to be the safe pair of hands for education, a detail man, good on numbers. However, it looks like the SNP team has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in terms of Scottish education. Their governance changes are evidence-free. Over the past ten years their changes to data collection and opting out of independent statistics on education means they do not know some key aspects of Scottish education. John Swinney could not tell you which is the best performing education authority in the country nor could he say which performs least well. He is unsure about Glasgow’s successes with the children from most deprived backgrounds, unwilling to recognise and validate them. He does not value Glasgow’s successes with immigrants and ethnic minorities and celebrates such work even less. Most worryingly given the level of ignorance he is embarking on system reform dismantling successful structures and relationships instead of system improvement based on strengths and development needs.

It is nearly 20 years since the start of the new Scottish Parliament, approaching 25 years since the last local government reorganisation and 30 years since the introduction of School Boards. The Socialist Education Association Scotland (SEAS) thinks it is an appropriate time for a more open and independent review about the future governance arrangements across Scottish education and linked public services.

SEAS views our locally accountable community schools – both primary and secondary – as successful and popular expressions of our Scottish values and Scotland’s belief in the positive difference socially-organised learning and schooling makes to our children, young people and communities.

In Scotland, at the present time, our main emphasis in education should be on the need to continue to build on the successes and strengths of Scotland’s democratic and comprehensive system within the public sector.   A Scottish Government must avoid changes to Scotland’s education system which increases reliance on “charity schools”, free schools, marketisation and privatisation, which divide communities and increase inequality. It is important for Scotland to ensure that any changes in governance arrangements do not undermine the commitment to inclusion and equity in education.

However, given the failures of the SNP to build on and improve comprehensive schooling, SEAS is unconvinced that their management of governance changes will benefit Scotland’s children and families.

There are two key areas that mark out SNP’s unwillingness in their governance drift to ensure democratically accountable education working in a comprehensive system. The two areas are the nature of comprehensive schooling within coherent public services and the role of education authorities in supporting school improvement.

Firstly, after stating that education was “the priority on which they were to be judged” and having tried to manage schools and education centrally since 2007, the SNP Scottish Government have exacerbated a series of failures by neglecting previous good practice developed within Scottish education. It seems that the work and the recommendations of the recent Christie Commission are to be similarly neglected. The future plans of the SNP Scottish Government are to place education in a centrally controlled ‘silo’ similar to Police Scotland or the much-reduced Scottish College system. The conclusion was that this leads to poor governance but also curbs local councils’ ability to tackle the impact of poverty. Christie opened with the following comment

“As a whole, the system can be ‘top down’ and unresponsive to the needs of individuals and communities. It lacks accountability and is often characterised by a short-termism that makes it difficult to prioritise preventative approaches.

Addressing these systemic defects will require a fundamental overhaul of the relationships within and between those institutions and agencies – public, third sector and private – responsible for designing and delivering public services.”

Our local authorities are best placed to lead coherent initiatives to ensure preventative approaches that will require systemic changes and thinking outside the boxes.

Secondly the role and place of education authorities will be undermined by SNP plans. In 2007 the first OECD report into Scottish education recommended “Greater school autonomy in a local government framework”. It also stated that changes in governance at a local level would be best managed by negotiation between local authority and school.  A decade on the SNP struggles to lead and manage socialised public services and now draws from a Tory playbook on education management. The plan is to dismantle the role of education authorities followed by approaches that defund, discredit, demoralise, disperse and dissipate the ability of a democratically elected authority which might challenge the SNP on their failures as a Scottish Government.

SNP’s decade with responsibility for Scottish education as one of our key public services has been ten years of wasted opportunity, failure and neglect. Education outcomes are stagnating and in decline compared to other European countries. The SNP Scottish Government’s proposals for governance seek to dismantle the strengths of our education authorities, reduce democratic accountability and centralise more resources, and must be vigorously resisted.

Join us in the fight.

Socialist Education Association Scotland

Our Narrative Scottish Education for All

Our narrative is for Scottish Education For All. It recognises the importance of tackling poverty as a collective effort to ensure that every person in Scotland has continuing access to education. Our broader aims are :

  • To improve our comprehensive wraparound model of education, care and health from early childhood and ensure that all children and family services support parents and carers where appropriate in identifying children’s needs and providing them with timeous and appropriate support
  • To continue to build on the universal, broad and inclusive framework for the curriculum from early childhood to adult learning. This should include choice, depth, breadth, challenge and progression and value what learners know and can do so that all learners can be proud of their achievements. Scottish Labour should challenge any education system which results in limiting opportunities and leads to segregation by class or ability or any other form of segregation which fails to tackle inequalities
  • To improve ways of targeting resources to reduce inequalities and promote achievement in the broadest sense throughout life
  • To put inclusion and equal opportunities at the heart of education provision as well as challenging discrimination  in all its forms.
  • To promote the development of local authority frameworks and partnerships providing strong local support and oversight of all educational establishments based on a model of sharing best practice and securing the highest standards of learning and teaching for our children and families in their communities.

Looking back Scottish Labour is proud of the achievements when it was in government. Scottish Labour has always supported a locally elected democratic structure of support and challenge.  In Scotland, 50 years ago 70% of young people left school with no qualifications. Now about 4% leave school with no qualifications.  Curriculum for Excellence originated under a Labour-led Executive who promoted on the National Debate involving teachers,  parents and communities.

Following the national debate high levels of funding and resources were directed towards Scottish education with budgets increasing year on year in Scotland.  Significant pay increases were part of building capacity and extending professionalism of our teachers.  Now the SNP have significantly reduced budgets and held teachers like other public sector workers to poor pay deals.

An additional factor in the failure of the SNP in education in Scotland is the lack of transparency about the performance of  school sand education authorities.  The present Scottish Government have dropped, changed altered any consistent approach to  statistics and analysis. No big data, no smart data, no consistent data has compromised the ability  to  identify strengths and areas for improvement, and provide accountability of this  Government’s  failures.