Posted by: rosa alba | June 17, 2014

A man’s a man, for a’ that: Nurturing “indpendent minds” and “sense and worth”

“Inclusion is about all learners and about taking action to remove barriers to participation and learning. Inclusion also involves eliminating discrimination and promoting equality.”

Education Scotland (Curriculum for Excellence):


One of my last previous posts (a couple of years ago) was on the theme of “Initium sapientiae timor domini”  (the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom, a quote tied to Education in the NE)– a post I am purposefully not re-reading before adding this post, and this post may move this blog from the previous theology-based musing to something else.   The beginning of wisdom…..well, for all the role of the church(es) in Scotland in furthering education through the centuries, the beginning of wisdom as a nation is about ensuring education continues to be accessible by all and meet the needs of all: removing every, single barrier for learning on a concentrated, national level, and as much as is actually possible, for every single child within our education system.

I – you – everyone would like to believe that “for every single child” really means that, on an individual tailored basis..and of course it does, in theory. Where theory and practice chasm apart is funding and resourcing, not in terms of (the current) teaching system or teacher commitment. It is about national, political and budgetary commitment, for the people (and hopefully by the people).

The various voices of the Yes campaign at Strategic Level have made clear, that Education has been a priority for the Scottish Government, which is evidenced by the fees-free Higher Education provision for Scottish (and other EU students) in Scotland. How great is that? HOW GREAT IS THAT?  The tradition of education as a great leveller: the tradition that from as early as the 12th Century with the foundation of Aberdeen Grammar School promoted education, and through bursaries, scholarship and patronage, increasingly education for ALL.   Of course, until relatively recently (if we start at the foundation of Aberdeen Grammar School or the 300 years younger St Andrew’s University) “education for all” meant only half the population, and those male.  Of course it was of its time, and we cannot rewrite the past: we can write the future.

The future is the Curriculum for Excellence, a systematically coherent structure that values and allows for Academic Excellence and learning for its own sake but also for an understanding of learning and its purpose, and skills acquisition fitting for the modern world. In this modern world of online sources and finger-tip encyclopaediae (where winning the Pub Quiz is about having the best 3G access and the quickest google-fu), knowledge still has its place but equally, even more so,  the skills to access, analyse, evaluate and apply that knowledge productively.
The future is a vision of Getting It Right For Every Child: that vision transcends Education into integrated thinking and service provision, but in its Education component is the ultimate in not, levelling the field to the extent that the race becomes an anodyne, merit-less walk in the park with no medals, no laurels, no crowns but that each runner is given the apparatus he needs to compete equally in that race, and is lauded for his effort, participation and achievement in the race.   St Paul (1 Corinthians  9:24) writes about races and the aim being an incorruptible crown: and running with purpose in every step.   With the Curriculum for Excellence, in tandem with GIRFEC when applicable, every child will run with purpose to achieve a crown.

With the Curriculum for Excellence our country has re-modelled the system (in line with latest paedagogic theories, focused on sound educational research) but it means moving on, moving on  from that for which  many in my generation, my parents’ my grandparents had great love and affinity, and are sad to see retired.  But the new system, the Curriculum for Excellence, also allows our children, our future, the chance to participate equally on an increasingly global field of competition.  It is the dynamic continuance of a system which, with graduate teachers (Masters of Art), was the envy of the known world, from the fifteenth century onwards, but which sadly began to fail.

I am no lover of Empire or the mentality of Empire, but those who praise the Union, and the opportunities that the Empire furnished to Scots in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries must needs also understand that yes, it was disproportionally  Scottish entrepreneurs, soldiers, teachers, ministers, administrators and even governors who ran and even benefited from the Empire, but it was also disproportionally Scottish expatriates of all kinds who hewed the way, and too often, died to further an Empire, from which, largely Scotland itself reaped disproportionately few profits on a wholesale level.

However the days of Empire were a time and era, and period now over, and we passed from post-Imperialism to the Individualism  of Thatcherism and the dismantling of industry and privatisation of resources  for individual gain.  Marx’s vision was never for Russia – a country at the time still embedded in Serfdom and Agrarianism, to be the poster child for his theories of egalitarianism and community. Like all writings of men, Marx’s were not perfect, but a approximate model, but a model that might have worked  (did work) successfully in Robert Owen’s New Lanark – feted throughout Europe, however, like Chartism, Owen’s communities did not have a basis for ongoing success within the elitist hegemony of Empire. The Quaker companies fared better, of course.  However, as Church-sponsored education, as Empire are of the past, so is a paternalistic, charity-based approach to Social Welfare and education (however much Bevin’s ideals are dying through neglect and charities are bearing the weight: do we want to return to an age of Victorian philanthropy?)

There is wisdom in the Bible: in Ecclesiastes

1There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

We have come to the time for us, not just to change  but to defend Scotland’s education system which increasingly (with the dismantling of the apprenticeship system, now replaced with modern apprenticeships, thankfully) was not meeting its goals at the level of Primary and Secondary  Education, and was not producing the likes of the movers and shakers who forged the Enlightenment and the Empire.  Increasingly less with each post-war generation are those, sons of the Manse or not, who have benefited from that system and had the opportunity to go on and do great things (or done so), but some there are.

One such was Gordon Brown. The same Gordon Brown who, not just by my lights failed to do great things with the endowment of his eduction but who wants to dismantle the sovereignty and independence of that Scottish Education System, obviously failing to understand not just the history but the renewal and revision of the system that has taken place, based on these enduring principles of equality and inclusion.

It is  time – now is the hour –  to defend Education. Not the system for system’s or sovereighty’s sake but for what an egalitarian and pupil-centred system, reflecting the enduring underpinning values of Education in Scotland, can offer Scotland’s children.  We value our men, women, children of “independent mind” which thinking skills the Curriculum for Excellence fosters, and as Burns predicted, the time has come where “sense and worth…shall bear the gree”. And with children educated to have independent mind, sense and gree, they can “reap their own harvest and ring their own tills….govern own country, wisely and fairly”; giving Scots the tools to self-manage, Scotland will, in the words of the Corries, flourish.

In the first few lines of this post, I mentioned the chasm of funding and resourcing.  If we let the Education System of Scotland be homogenised into an undifferentiated system with that of England and Wales, which has always tended to more elitist, we necessarily let go the devolution of Education to Holyrood. In so doing we relinquish the freedom to prioritise Education in terms of budgeting and resourcing.

This potential budgetary subjugation to London,  means not JUST the free tertiary education for all,  but the extra classroom assistant for the child with cerebral palsy who ends up having a toileting accident because the P1 teacher cannot leave the room – and 19 other children – to take her to the toilet; we let go of the funding priorities of free school dinners for every child to ensure a good meal in their wame and ability focus on the day’s learning; we let go of the funding priorities of early intervention; we let go the opportunity of funding  Nurture Groups to help make up the developmental delays in those who have had a rocky start;  we let go the concept of reduced class size for early years in areas of deprivation which raise attainment, and resilience  (key given the issues of child poverty in Scotland’s cities and shiress); we let go the priorities of the supplementary teachers to enable able pupils with ADHD or ASD to achieve their full-potential, rather than be exiled to two hours a day part-time education because they are “ineducable”;* we let go the budgets to fund specialist off-site education for children with severe Additonal Support Needs or therapeutic needs (funding placements for needy children is hard to secure for such provisions in England). On a very basic level, we let go the budgets to ensure each child has adequate practical resources of enough text books, working technology and even jotters.  If we give this up,  we give up on Scottish Eduction – and we give all but the most elite of children “their jotters” before some have even crossed the schoolroom’s threshold.

Am I scare-mongering? Perhaps.  But of one thing we can be guaranteed, is more budget cuts in matters reserved for Westminster.  Education – above all education – should not be the sacrificial lamb that used to separate us from the goats.

*In no location or setting, in their adult working life will children with ADHD and ASD forcibly have to function in a room with 32 other children, with all the noise and sensory input, and unpredictability of childhood and adolescent social interactions, and restrictions that classrooms entail, which restrictions are very much reduced under the developing CfE, if adequately resourced.

And now for a little Paolo Nutini:



  1. Your last paragraph is true of all children, actually, and is part of the argument for homeschooling as well.

    This vision of education is hard to argue with. In an Independent Scotland, with a small economy and without the resources of Great Britain, where will the funding for this vision come from? What else, of equal (or at least nearly equal) importance will have to suffer funding losses to make this a reality?

    • Well…
      There would be the taxes we already garner and return to Westminter, from which we get back ?1.5% less than we contribute, as per the New Statesment.

      Let’s tackle the subsidy charge first. Scots represent 8.4 per cent of the UK’s total population, but they generate 9.4 per cent of its annual revenues in tax — equivalent to £1,000 extra per person. The remaining £624 is easily accounted for by decades of UK government under-spending in Scotland on defence and on other items which are not routinely broken down by region, such as foreign office services. – the article is 3 years old but the figures are still approximately current.
      Then there is the money saved from our contribution to the support and maintenance of Trident: £163 M. per annum, and the money we would save from contributing to the cost of HS2 £4771 Million – for a high speed railway benefitting the south and Midlands, when they have not even electrified the lines north of Edinburgh, nor will they be builing HS railway lines even as far north as Edinburgh in the foreseeable future.
      If we add in the benefits to Scotland from the Crown Estate – this does not give figures but shows how the revenue is used in Scotland. Our share would be greater after Independence, and there would be additional revenue from Oil. – click on “the reasons” and scroll down. Experts from the LSE and around the world agree Scotland would be a very wealthy small country.

      This document (which I am reading) is the Scottish Governments Strategic And Economic Plan for an Independent Scotland.

      There is also The Common Weal – proposed strategy plans for redistributing wealth and restructuring society in an Indpendent Scotland to make it Fair for Everyone: their lietmotiv or mission statement is, “All of Us First”.

      The proposals and prospective policy of The Common Weal would include Community Buy Outs for large land estates (which is already legislated for by the Scottish Government and further legislative potential incorporated in the proposed Constitution:

      Historically Scotland’s “identity” conscience is one of egalitarianism, and community, and even of landstewardship for the good of the many. There has always been common land (the legal structure t of Common Land differs from the position in England). There are articles on this at Bella Caledonia. (part of Common Weal)

      This article focuses on the concept of landownership and stewardship, and explains (if I recall correctly) how prior to the removal of land from the Clans to ownership by the London Landed (some admittedly were Clan Chiefs who joined the elite).

      I have been doing a lot of reading.
      Useful online news sources are: – Newsnet Scotland; Ponsonby writes here, and other highly thought of journos, including Lesley Riddoch. – Bateman (former BBC journo) – also Podcasts at Bateman Radio – Lesley Riddoch (v. highly thought of journalist).

      Wings over Scotland is investigative – controversial – but he uncovers some very interesting truths.

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