University of Glasgow Academics call for ‘radical thinking’ about the future of Scottish Education

Academics at the University of Glasgow’s Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change are calling for ‘bold thinking and risk taking’ in Scottish education, with a report that will contribute to the national discussion about the future of Scottish education.

Where Next for Scottish Education: Learning is Scotland's Future? was written by Professor Chris Chapman and Professor Graham Donaldson. It considers what is needed for long-term success in education, including establishing a common sense of purpose, investing in teachers, harnessing technology and moving the power base away from the centre and towards classrooms.

Professor Chapman said: “These are challenging times for Scottish education, not least because of the reform agenda and its implications for our children and young people. As academics working in issues of educational change, improvement and innovation across the globe, combined with a strong commitment to improving education, we are convinced that there is an urgent need for radical thinking about how best to support all of Scotland’s young people to learn and flourish in an increasingly challenging environment.

Successive Scottish governments have undertaken ambitious educational reforms, but we need to be creative and up our game if we want today's young people to succeed in a challenging world. It is our hope that this report makes a meaningful contribution to this debate and brings about lasting and sustainable change.”

Key messages of the report include:

  • International evidence suggests centrally managed, top-down approaches to educational change can limit and inhibit progress. What does Scotland need if it is to bring in meaningful changes that will impact on every pupil?
  • Scotland's educational system is at a crossroads. If the system is to create a long-term strategic vision for young people's learning and wellness, it must take advantage of the diverse range of reviews and opinions that can help shape the system into something fit for the 21st century.
  • Education is the hardest public service to reform and has suffered a great deal during the past three years. How can schools stay relevant in this time of extraordinary change that won’t slow down?
  • Centrally directed reform takes too long to reach the classroom and rarely succeeds. We must move from reactive reform that "does to" schools to proactive change that directly involves schools.
  • Scotland requires an education system that anticipates and harnesses change so that it can be embraced rather than reacted to. Universities' innovation centres should collaborate with governments, local governments, and schools to assess the efficacy and impact of advances, translating opportunities into practical strategies to improve access to high-quality learning.
  • Inter-school collaboration is a vital part of any educational improvement strategy and is a policy which must be fostered by senior leadership.
  • The drivers of change are more immediate and powerful than ever before. We need to go beyond standard policy processes to generate creative and practical ways forward that go beyond being more effective at what we currently do.
  • We need a culture and structures that bring policy, practice and research together in ways that capitalise on insights from each.