Scotland politics

Conservatives call for reform of Education Scotland

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Scotland's education agencies may not be fit for purpose, according to the Scottish Conservatives.

They have called for a major reform of Education Scotland, claiming it suffers from a conflict of interest.

The government agency was criticised by a majority of teachers who responded to a survey for Holyrood's education committee.

Education secretary John Swinney said it was important to listen to the criticism and reflect upon it.

But he warned that the result of the online survey should be treated with caution as it polled the opinions of just 211 of Scotland's 50,000 teachers.

Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservative's education spokeswoman, said the survey highlighted a lack of confidence in education agencies.

She told BBC Radio Scotland that there was a "conflict of interest" at the heart of Education Scotland because it sets the Curriculum for Excellence, and inspects it.

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Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, she said the agency was "judge and jury at the same time".

"The inspection process should not be part of Education Scotland.

"It should be entirely separate because you cannot have a system that is judge and jury at the same time.

"That's a message that's coming through loud and clear from the profession and from many of the experts in the field."

Ms Smith said the Scottish Parliament's education and skills committee received a "significant" volume of evidence from people raising concerns about the education agencies.

'Perpetual improvement'

She added: "This problem has to be sorted because this is about the confidence in the ability of the education agencies to deliver top class education and also to have public trust and that's something that has to be addressed very quickly."

Speaking on the same programme, Mr Swinney said he did not accept the concerns about a conflict of interest within Education Scotland.

"Because what Education Scotland is focussed on, whether it's in its role as inspectors of schools or in developing the curriculum, is that both of these functions are focussed on improvement, on making sure education is being strengthened," he said.

"And I am absolutely committed to strengthening Scottish education and improving performance within the system and outcomes for young people."

The deputy first minister said he wanted to lead a culture of "perpetual improvement" in education in Scotland.

And he added: "It's important that we listen to all criticism and reflect on that to make sure that Education Scotland and our other agencies fulfil the role that they've got to undertake."

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