SNP education secretary defends reforms despite fear of impact from civil servants

The Education Secretary has said she will personally ensure that her reform plans lead to meaningful improvement amid fears they could be stifled by civil servants and bureaucrats.

Shirley-Anne Somerville made the remarks after her speech at the Annual General Meeting of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) in Dundee.

She told the Herald: “I am determined to bring about change. I think I’m used to showing in social security that I can take a system that was very unpopular and turn it into a system that’s now trusted, and that’s what I’m determined to do. also in the field of education.

His comments follow confirmation in March that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and standards body Education Scotland are to be replaced. A totally independent academic inspection will also be created. The announcement coincided with the publication of a major report on the education system by Professor Ken Muir, former chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

However, earlier this week Professor Walter Humes, one of Scotland’s top education experts, argued in an op-ed for this newspaper that the reforms risked being hijacked by civil servants who resist innovation. He added, “I understand that a strategic reform program council, with several subordinate councils, has been established. These are populated by the usual suspects – senior civil servants, directors of education, representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and staff of bodies who need to be replaced.

“It looks like insider trading, with those who are part of the problem tasked with producing solutions. decidedly distant.

Prof Humes, also a member of the expert panel which supported Prof Muir in producing his report, claimed Scottish education had been damaged by a ‘conformist culture’ which sees ‘too many people of modest talent to be promoted to leadership positions”. He wrote that these individuals then proceed to “defend their turf, marginalize talented colleagues, and resist new ideas.”

He added, “The system desperately needs creative people who are mindful of the massive changes education is facing due to technological advancements, geopolitical pressures and economic challenges. By delegating the reform agenda to the usual players, the cabinet secretary runs the risk of repeating the mistakes of her predecessors. Scottish education desperately needs new thinkers and new voices.

Ms Somerville said: ‘What I would say to Walter and other concerned people is that this reform process is being led by a cabinet secretary who came very early in her term in government and said that we would see significant changes. I will oversee this reform process to ensure that we get these important changes out of it. She also insisted that a “national discussion” on Scottish education would explore different ways of involving everyone with an interest.

Ms Somerville told delegates during her speech on HIA that ministers would work ‘with teachers and other stakeholders to plan the national discussion to ensure it includes all of these interests’. She added: “As part of this, I look forward to working with all of you as we develop this discussion and our broader reform agenda. I know you will be keen to understand how and when this will happen, and I will do so before the end of the term.

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