SEAS worked with members of Falkirk West CLP consider “All Things Socialist Education“ in the Labour club in Camelon. The session was interesting, informative and thought provoking.
Firstly the session considered the key markers of a socialist education system with CLP members highlighting that the curriculum should feature a broader view of equality education with greater attention to social history including the labour movement and women’s movements. At the Senior Phase there is the need for more relevant and flexible approaches to learning within a 3-year period rather than being pressurised or shoe-horned into the certification system. . Members also called for our system to be well-resourced and to see an end of segregation by private fee-paying schools and secular with all faiths and religions being respected but not by faith-based schooling.
The SEAS highlighted their key markers as our socialist education system should be promoting a learning society with lifelong provision to the highest standard across Scotland. Its aim is to develop the full potential of each individual through an inclusive comprehensive education service with equality of opportunity and equity in outcome with state education being free, well-resourced and publicly accountable.
Some surprise was expressed that not only did just 4% of children in Scotland attend private schools but that that this number has been in decline over a number of years. The strengths of the comprehensive system were it operated to educate everyone in the local area. Research such as The Spirit Level highlights the poorer outcomes for societies that are less equal. Jimmy Reid had it right in 1972 when he said “The flowering of each individual’s personality and talents is the pre-condition for everyone’s development… our whole concept of education must change. The whole object must be to equip and educate people for life, not solely for work or a profession.”
Since then our comprehensive school shave succeeded in gaining more and more young people more and more successes in exam passes in more and more subjects. In 1965 125 of young people gained three plus Highers, by 1980s 22% gained 3+ awards at Higher grade and by 2013 37% were achieving 3+ awards at Higher through what is described as “downward credentialism” carried out by schools and teachers driving such system improvement. However it was agreed that a narrow focus on attainment is not sufficient in 21stcentury Scotland. Members spoke of the need for a flexible system at Senior Phase with broader sets of experiences linked broader experiences such as community involvement.
The SEAS concluded by highlighting some significant gaps now appearing present SNP educational policy and our sims for socialist education under Labour. Investment in early years rather than austerity-led promises, ending standardised tests “of hummingbird’s beaks” to rely on trust in teachers and classroom-led assessment, investment in support for inclusive practices, locally accountability rather then centralised control, coherent public services at the local level to tackle poverty instead of expecting schools to solve social issues by themselves and leadership throughout the school rather residing power solely with headteachers.
Members saw such approaches as ways to attract voters to a socialist agenda for educational change. Both SEAS and members of Falkirk West CLP found the debate and discussion more than useful in setting forward such an agenda.