Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

Commission on School Reform issues stark challenge to Scottish Government

  • action is required urgently to close the attainment gap and accelerate overall growth in standards
  • transformational change required to regain international reputation
  • new approach needed for helping children living in poverty

A fresh challenge to the Scottish Government has been issued by the Commission for School Reform, established by Reform Scotland and the CSPP. The Commission for School Reform is chaired by Keir Bloomer, the independent education consultant and former Director of Education at Clackmannanshire Council.

The Scottish Government is developing a strategy for raising attainment and simultaneously closing the gap between the levels of attainment of children from deprived and more affluent backgrounds.  The Commission shares these objectives.  The challenge paper released today (Monday) raises questions about how they might be achieved and offers some suggestions on practical ways forward.

Keir Bloomer, on releasing the Challenge Paper, said:

“The Scottish Government are right to focus on the twin objectives of raising overall attainment and simultaneously closing the gap between the attainment of disadvantaged children and those from more affluent backgrounds. However, it is time for government to adopt clear strategies to achieve those valid ambitions.”

The Challenge Paper is the first intervention from the Commission for School Reform since its re-establishment over the summer, and builds on the work to date, including its report entitled By Diverse Means, issued in 2013.

The challenge paper is attached for download below. Its main challenges include asking the Scottish Government to:

  1. confirm the timescale over which it wishes to ensure that Scottish educational performance becomes once again amongst the world’s best
  2. confirm beyond doubt that reducing the gap in attainment between higher and lower attaining students must only be achieved by raising performance at the bottom end, not compromising standards amongst the most able.
  3. accept that is Scotland’s education system is to become world leading within an acceptable timescale, transformational change not incremental advances will be required.
  4. review current plans to include supporting children living in poverty but attending schools that do not serve particularly deprived areas.

Mr Bloomer continued:

“Our earlier report established that whilst Scotland’s schools are good, they are not getting better as fast as they are in some other countries. We start from a position that the status quo is not good enough, and will only see us falling further behind.

“In this, the first of a series of challenge papers, we want to prompt a new sense of urgency in Government thinking.

“We can transform our educational performance through concerted action to close the gap in attainment, drive up professional standards in teaching and empower schools to respond successfully to local educational needs.”


Challenge Paper