Where Next for Scottish Education: Leading from the Classroom

Published: 11 March 2024

Experts at the University of Glasgow's School of Education have set out a radical vision that places schools and teachers at the centre of education reform.

Experts at the University of Glasgow have set out a radical vision that places schools and teachers at the centre of education reform.

In their latest paper on how Scotland’s education system can make a real and long-lasting difference in schools, Professors Chris Chapman and Graham Donaldson argue that Scotland needs to simplify its approach, giving greater clarity about how we educate our children and young people in an increasingly complex world.

‘Where Next for Scottish Education: Leading from the Classroom’ follows on from 2023’s ‘Where Next for Scottish Education: Learning is Scotland’s Future’, which highlighted the actions are needed to successfully transform Scotland’s education system.

Both papers seek to make a valuable contribution to the ongoing national discussion about the future of Scottish education.

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.

Professor Donaldson said,

“‘Leading from the Classroom’ builds on the conversations, thinking and actions that we argued in our 2023 paper must happen if Scotland's education system is one that can truly lead - and not just react to - the future’s local and global challenges. 

“Decisions about how children learn are best made where that learning takes place. Putting professionals at the heart of decision-making will therefore better meet the needs of children and young people from all backgrounds. Achieving the right balance between local responsibility and the need to make sure what is taught and learned is high quality is vital for keeping Scotland’s young people fit for the future, its society healthy and its economy strong.”

The authors argue that the following factors need to be in place for transformation to happen:

  • Skilled teachers, committed to their own professional growth;
  • a culture of innovation, quick responses and flexibility; 
  • new ways of identifying, sharing and encouraging effective practice
  • robust evidence about performance and growth
  • leadership focused on high expectations, trust, and shared responsibility. 

The Government’s proposed Centre for Teaching Excellence can play an important role in this reimagined system, say the authors.

Ultimately, success will depend on real cultural change with professionals supported to make decisions that matter for the learning and wellbeing of our young people.

First published: 11 March 2024

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