Letter from Edinburgh

A couple of weeks ago I used this column to highlight my concerns about the government’s handling of schools. Since then the SIC has announced it is to consult on another closure programme, citing the intro­duction of the Curriculum of Excellence as one of the drivers for a new structure in Shetland.

The council is saying that a new curriculum would change how we deliver education to our children across the islands. But as head teachers in Shetland have told me, there is absolutely no certainty about what that curriculum will look like and how it is to be structured.

No Shetland school – no Scottish school – has yet had the new exams on which the syllabus will be taught from August of next year on. That responsibility lies totally with central government.

Then on Friday of last week the then Scottish education secretary said that as local councils were failing, she was considering running all schools from Edinburgh by central dictat. Well I may have my disagreements with our council from time to time, but I don’t believe that the answer to our children’s future is to have the education minister in day-to-day charge.

So last weekend I made it clear to the government that this couldn’t go on. An irretrievable breakdown in relationships between central and local government was nothing but damaging for schools and the teaching of our children.

I cannot believe that, as the gov­ernment tries to implement a new curriculum, it picks an enor­mous fight with every council in Scotland. Not clever and not acceptable.

So Alex Salmond had to change the minister – Scottish education needs a fresh start. I am pleased that we will get that new broom. The new education secretary is a very different kettle of fish.

Michael Russell is certainly intel­ligent but his biggest task now is to change the damaging period we have been through, repair relations, state that he will not be running schools from Edinburgh and end the uncertainty over the curriculum for excellence. And then in his second day in the job …

The Shetland Sports Awards evening, held last weekend and sponsored by this newspaper and the recreational trust, is becoming one of my highlights of the year. It shows what dedicated people of all ages can achieve, not just in Shetland but competing nationally and internationally.

Parents put lots of their own money and time into taking talented young people to events across the UK. So one of the significant areas I want to see developed is assistance for our promising young athletes that can help with this burden.

Sport Scotland is the national agency responsible. It has been a big supporter of Shetland, so lets see if a scheme to help the next generation of swimmers, runners, and others can be developed along with the help that is available from within Shetland.

Tavish Scott MSP


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