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A parliamentary send off….

March 12, 2010

I don’t think I will have been on a trip that has been better flagged up than this one, which starts tomorrow.  It will be my first as Cabinet Secretary for Education but having blogged on  both  my major trips last year  as Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution ( to North America for Scotland Week in April and to India last October)  and having had a good reaction to that type of communication  I wanted to carry on with the approach, though this time perhaps for a different audience and for a shorter period, as I am only away from Sunday to Wednesday.

The preview came  from the Tories, who held a debate in their time in Parliament on Thursday to talk about models of education elsewhere and why they favour some of the Swedish innovations of recent years.   You can find the verbatim transcript of the  full debate at the Scottish Parliament website (HERE) or reports of it in various Scottish newspapers from Friday ( including the Daily Record whose account  leads on my past criticisms of my old school, Marr College – a dispute that is long over.)

Marr College, Troon

I certainly think we in Scotland should always be open to new ideas and happy that others have experiences which we can learn from.   But we can’t and shouldn’t import without intense scrutiny, constructive  criticism and much, much thought about how anything new  might fit  in with  our important traditions – traditions of access and excellence for all and above all.

Many of those who have looked at such things, including one of my predecessors, Peter Peacock, think that Finland might be a closer fit that Sweden and certainly its standing within the international league tables of educational performance is exceptional.   So I look forward to listening and learning in both places  – and I shall need to be wrapped up for warmth in both places too according to the forecast I have just checked; it is likely to go down to minus 16 in Helsinki on Monday night, and whilst Stockholm is  not quite as cold  it still won’t be above freezing !

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