Brian Monteith: Scottish schools have a lot to learn about raising standards.

A controversial plan to close the Edinburgh School of Music says a lot about ambition in education, says Brian Monteith in The Scotsman.

Two tales from contemporary education show just how poor the management of our local schools has become and how parents can take action to find their own solution when the system fails to meet parents’ aspirations.

In our capital, the City of Edinburgh Music School, a national centre of excellence based in Broughton High School and Flora Stevenson Primary, is under the threat of substantial local authority cuts and the dispersal of its teaching that will make it neither national nor a centre of excellence.

Now is the time when councils look to fix their budgets for next year and in seeking to find £21 million of savings City of Edinburgh Council proposed cutting £363,000 from the City of Edinburgh Music School. Across the city music teaching would be reduced in general with the City of Edinburgh Music School being used to cover that falling provision. The savings would be achieved by dispersing its specialist teaching over eight schools rather than two and by taking larger classes.

It is claimed that more pupils will receive specialist teaching but larger classes are the antithesis of tutoring gifted and talented musicians. To provide cover for this blatant political move the council has claimed it is trying to provide more equity between pupils – but it is doing this by lowering standards for those that need stretched and redirecting resources that should be provided to all schools in any case.

This shoddy treatment of a prized educational treasure makes the case for direct funding of national centres of excellence all the stronger. It also raises the question, that if this is how local councils treat their schools held in the highest regard, how much worse do they treat schools that have genuine reputational problems due to poor academic attainment?

James Tooley, Professor of Education at Newcastle University, has travelled the world researching how parent-led schools have emerged when the state system has disappointed or failed pupils and their parents. This week he is speaking in Edinburgh at the launch of Schools’ Educational Trust, a new Scottish charity that is behind a number of initiatives, such as helping headteachers to provide leadership and establishing the first low-cost independent school that even low income families might afford.

Read about James Tooley’s research and the first low-cost independent school Brian Monteith: Scottish schools have a lot to learn about raising standards.

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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