It seems that Mike Russell is exploring ways of encouraging philanthropists to take on a role is Scottish schools. The cabinet secretary was speaking this week at a conference organised by the David Hume institute. Lindsay Paterson presented his report: Outstanding Students and Philanthropic Contributions in Scottish School Education” at the event. Here Professor Paterson lays out ways in which “the imagination of the philanthropic entrepreneur can be brought to bear on providing opportunities for outstanding students to flourish”.
It’s great that people want to give money to support Scottish education but there are also risks. Lindsay Paterson is right to say that we have to retain democratic accountability in policy making. The Herald also rightly raises concerns about whether such a scheme will widen the existing gap between top and bottom. Too many children fail to achieve their potential.
What happens to pupils with outstanding talents isn’t really the issue in Scottish education. The outstanding students in Scotland already match the outcomes of the highest achievers in international comparisons. Last week at another conference on inequality in education I learned that in maths the highest achieving children match those in Hong Kong but at the other end of the scale we rank alongside Turkey. The issues are why the outcomes are so poor for those from deprived backgrounds and how to raise their attainment. As Mike Russell said “promotion of greater social justice and greater equity in educational outcomes for all our children and young people” should be the priority for government initiatives. Fresh ideas and energy are always welcome but schools need adequate secure funding, (not tied to the whims of big money donors) and education professionals, trained to high standards in order to achieve these goals.
Another way forward would be if those who have lots of money who want to support our schools just pay their taxes at a decent rate. That’s how we maintain democratic control over spending. They wouldn’t get a flashy building or fund with their name on it but they would be able to help a lot more children reach their potential.