Scotland politics

International schools advice panel meets

Sturgeon and schoolhildren Image copyright PA
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon and the panel members heard from teachers and pupils at Windygoul Primary School in Tranent, East Lothian

An international panel set up to help ministers improve education in Scotland has met for the first time.

The Scottish government has recruited specialists from across the world to be part of its International Council of Education Advisors.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney were involved in the discussions.

The panel includes members from Australia, the US, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Malaysia and the UK.

It was set up by Ms Sturgeon after May's Scottish Parliament elections.

The first minister stressed the importance of closing the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils in Scotland's schools.

She said: "Education is the top priority for this government and I want to ensure that Scotland is a global leader.

"The deputy first minister has set out the actions we will take to substantially close the attainment gap and deliver a world-class education system in Scotland.

"The international council will bring a global perspective to this work, scrutinising our plans against the backdrop of their substantial expertise and ensuring we learn lessons from other parts of the world."

The panel members will advise the Scottish government on education priorities and ensure its plans are influenced by international best practice.

They heard from pupils and teachers as they met for the first time at Windygoul Primary School in Tranent, East Lothian.

Ontario Education Commissioner Dr Avis Glaze, who is a member of the group, said she thought Canada and Scotland could learn from each other.

She told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I believe in Ontario we focus intensely on improving pupil's achievement and well-being, on closing achievement gaps and on capacity building.

"We believe that the way to improve the system is to make sure that all teachers and principals, and all those who work in education, have the skills that they thought they needed."

Another panel member, Prof Andy Hargreaves, told BBC Scotland that the Scottish government's ambition to close the attainment gap by focusing on pupils at the lower end of the scale would not harm the prospects of other children.

He said: "If your child's in a class and you've got five or six kids really struggling at the bottom it then makes it hard for the teacher with all the class - it actually holds all the kids back.

"But if you put a lot of energy and effort into helping the kids at the bottom... it also then begins to reduce the range a bit in the class because they're moving up so fast. So it actually makes it easier for the teacher to really stretch and challenge all the kids."

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