The Socialist Educational Association Scotland (SEAS) aims to energise debate and discussion about Scottish education. We see the need to extend the influence of the ideas underpinning a socialised comprehensive education system. The case for socialised inclusive comprehensive education tackling inequalities is being made not just by the SEAS but now across policy communities. In our view there is now a clear “policy gap” between such ideas and the educational policies of the SNP, more and more often drawn from a Tory playbook supported by Tories in Holyrood.
Recently we met with councillors from Midlothian (Margot Russell, Jim Muirhead and John Hackett) to discuss with them their approach to a forward-looking agenda for education. Our “all things socialist education” follows a similar meeting with Springburn and Maryhill CLP.
SEAS opened the meeting with sharing key points from our policy paper and highlighted our five key priorities: –
- idea of community-based collaboration exemplified by early years wrap round provision;
- inclusive comprehensive schools based on children’s rights;
- at senior phase collaboration leading to positive outcomes and destinations including development of quality vocational learning;
- ensure more varied approaches to accountability and review end inspections of primary schools and promote self evaluation; and
- eliminate overly supportive Government aid and hidden public subsidy to private schools
Within the meeting we
- identified key challenges facing Labour Councillors in relation to education including the impact of cuts
- talked about drawing on good practice in local education authorities with a view to shaping SEAS policy
- shared views on Scottish Government proposals for education as outlined in Empowering Schools: A Consultation on the Provisions of the Education (Scotland) Bill.
In a wide-ranging engagement the following themes were touched upon:
- aspects of good practice in Midlothian Education Services – continuous improvement in educational attainment; strong LA management team; engagement of parents and community e.g. Money Advice; targeted intervention with support and resources to areas of greatest need; very good early years provision;
- concerns regarding SNP’s Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RIC) and Scottish Government’s agenda in disempowering local authorities and centralising control. With RICs there are particular issues for smaller authorities due to time officers are spending on RIC which could be spent on front line support; failure of Government to recognise that collaboration has always taken place across authorities to share good practice; pressure on headteachers and the associated administrative burden etc.
- concerns re need for greater collaboration across Labour Councillors in Scotland (SEAS outlined proposal for a conference to share good practice). Reflections on the leading role COSLA took in the past in terms of strategic thinking and promoting the sharing of good practice through Portfolio holders and senior officers.
- Scottish Labour should share information based on a skills audit of elected members and Party members. The Party’s Socialist Societies have a key role in sharing socialist perspectives on services that goes beyond the producers’ perspective yet can engage workers, consumers and users.
- challenges of financing of local government: raising council tax; engaging parents and communities and explaining the challenges to them through community consultation; engagement of Party members in the budget process.
- opportunities presented by shared campuses as community campuses: several examples of good practice shared. Agreed that Case Studies would be helpful. SEAS to reconsider challenges inherent with private schools, segregated special schools and faith schools and open debate and dialogue in these areas.
SEAS remains keen to engage further with CLP, council groups, party members on pushing forward with a socialist education agenda based on community collaboration.