Discussion with the SEAS at both CLPs considered on two recent Labour Party documents. Firstly the Party’s First Stage Consultation Papers from the Scottish Policy Forum with a section on education that included culture and the Arts and international development. Consultation is open till 23rdAugust to contribute views. Secondly Glasgow Labour Party is issuing a series of policy consultation and their education paper is called “Ambitious Glasgow” and their consultation runs to August too.
SEAS had provided an outline guide to the Policy document and led the discussion with reference to Labour’s vision for lifelong learning towards an inclusive society based on social justice and common decency.
In terms of education there are now significant challenges. Under SNP, Scottish education is now stagnating and at all levels the system is struggling. The SNP‘s role in passing on Tories austerity cuts underpins this stagnation.
There is now a clear role for investment in education and aiming for coordinated community action to tackle all forms of inequality. The Policy forum paper set out the range of policy areas across the education service and indicated key developments proposed by Scottish Labour in early years, schools, community learning and development, further education and higher education.
The SEAS also mentioned their advice and priorities as being to invest in early education and plan and resource inclusive education including learning about equality. A third priority would be to extend the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence and take forward fully Jimmy Reid’s words about education for a wider purpose. The SEAS mentioned their recent successful motion to Scottish Conference on ending state support to private schools and also in terms of accountability to move from the present system to one of more local accountability at local levels focusing on tackling inequality.
Across the two recent meetings with CLPs there were many common issues raised by Labour Party members.
At Provan CLP discussion began about the importance of equality education in respect of inclusive learning about LGBT issues and positive support was offered for the TIE campaign in Scotland compared to recent events in England where faith groups challenged equality education in their school. The SEAS sees the need to ensure the success of diversity through embedding equality education across the protected characteristics.
While at Kelvin CLP, teacher workload opened the discussion and reference was made to work issues linked to assessment practices. The recent debate at the EIS conference about the place of examinations in assessment at different levels in National Qualifications was highlighted. The SEAS is supportive of assessment approaches that trust our teachers rather than imposing more standardised high stakes tests at any stage of education.
The point was made about the need for resources to focus on class sizes and reducing pupil: teacher ratios to lower levels thus allowing teachers to engage in more active forms of learning throughout schooling. The SEAS is more supportive of more adults working in the classroom as a better form of support than necessarily lower class sizes.
In terms of the policy paper the attention to further education was welcomed, as too often it can be a “Cinderella service”.
Questions were asked about the level of state support to private schooling beyond charitable status and tax relief. Mention was made of further support from public sector through Scottish Government civil servants.
The question of early learning, start of schooling, play and national testing were topics that were considered with agreement that flexible start to school is was better, learning and play rather than schooling and tests. Schools could better from a more permissive approach about learning and play in early stages.
Changes can take place within schools in terms of organising of classes and making full use of the diversity of population in a school, from each according to ability to each according to their needs is now more in line with educational thinking and evidence-based practice in grouping children and young people.
Further debate occurred on the place of Catholic schooling in modern day Scotland with a range of views expressed. The point was made that we have a faith-based schooling system rather than a secular system. At Kalvin the need for a secular system was proposed.
While at Provan CLP mention was made that even in our modern Scotland, aspects of hatred and bigotry against those from an Irish Catholic background are still in evidence on our streets. A discussion centred on the tension between the role and place of Catholic schooling and their approach to equality education and safeguarding LGBT young people. Many of the markers of inequality apply to LGBT young people as well as other groups subject to discrimination.
Mention was made of the success of local schools serving challenging areas yet demonstrating very positive outcomes.
Thanks were expressed to SEAS for contributing to a very good meetings and discussions and dialogue on education. Each CLP indicated their willingness to consider a further submission to the policy forum.