Teachers and Parents Could Tranform Scotland’s Education

21 Oct 2004

Scottish schools should be freed from local authority control and parents should be encouraged to choose which school to send their children to, says a new paper by the Policy Institute, a Scottish think-tank.

The report, ‘Setting Schools Free’, by Frank Gerstenberg, says that Scottish schools have ‘lost their edge’ compared to foreign equivalents and domestic independent schools. Most international surveys show Scottish pupils are lagging behind their neighbours. At the same time, the gap with independent schools appears to be widening, despite the fact that Scotland spends nearly 20% more than England on school education.

Gerstenberg, previously headmaster of George Watson’s school in Edinburgh, says the Executive should look abroad where voucher systems, in which ‘the money follows the pupil’ are common. “If the example of countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Holland is anything to go by, it could only lead to greater competition and higher standards.”

To raise standards, state schools should be freed from local authority control, says Gerstenberg. Examples such as Jordanhill School and St Mary’s Episcopal School in Dunblane are home grown examples of how state schools can flourish if given more independence.

He concludes: “A voucher scheme, whereby everyone has the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice, irrespective of income, is the only way that we can restore the Scottish education system to its ancient pre-eminence in the world. Entrenched opposition to such a development would be strong. But the arguments are there for bold politicians to defeat it.” ENDS.