The ‘Curriculum for Excellence’; Clearing Up The Ambiguities

A report released by the Sunday Mail in December last year revealed that teachers and staff in Scottish schools had suffered over 22,000 physical and verbal attacks from 2021 - 2022. The problem isn’t the ideology behind the nurture-based approach to behavioural policy, it’s the ineffective implementation of the nurture policy that has essentially left teachers vulnerable to potential attacks and unable to correct varying cases of ill-discipline.

The current Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland rightly prioritises the development of young Scots into “lifelong learners”. The nurture-based approach to behavioural policy throughout public secondary schools in Scotland is crucial to ensuring that pupils from all social and economic demographics can be successful both academically and in the workplace. It is because of this that this policy has to reflect the general code of conduct and expectations of the workplace.

A Peebles High School teacher I spoke to said that this was not the case at the school: 

There are very few workplaces that allow for staff to be verbally and physically abused with little consequence. Too few have any understanding on what the current behavioural policy is.”

The fact that this is the experience of any teacher in Scotland shows that clarifying the way in which the ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ is being implemented in schools is essential to maximising the quality of education in Scotland. In order to do this, the Scottish Government needs to reform the current flexible approach to the nurture-based behavioural policy so that it instead outlines specifically what the punishments are in cases of ill-discipline and how teachers and school staff have to respond to them. Not only would this better prepare Scottish pupils for starting work after school but would also eradicate the current confusion amongst school staff on how to properly enforce this policy, rather than persisting with a flexible approach that instead leaves significant and/or regular cases of ill-discipline by students going unpunished at the expense of the education of others. This should come with a mandatory training programme for all school staff in Scotland on the new implementation of behavioural policy. This would improve discipline throughout schools in Scotland on both a local and national scale.

Implementing the use of ‘Restraint and Seclusion into Scottish Law

Scottish Labour has been leading the discussion on this example of education policy with the consultation beginning on a new Members Bill by Daniel Johnson MSP to help protect school children and teachers from potential harm. The implementation of this Bill would ensure that the regulation and usage of the restraint and seclusion policy practices are outlined in law rather than being just guidance to teachers as they currently are. Physical restraint in a school is any procedure where one or more adults restrict a pupil’s physical movement or normal access to their own body. It is a method of last resort when all other de-escalation methods have been exhausted by the teacher if the specific case requires intervention to prevent the teacher(s) or student(s) from being harmed.  

This policy would be beneficial in improving Scottish education on both a local and national scale, as aninvestigation by the Children’s Commissioner found that only 18 of Scotland’s 32 authorities were able to provide any sort of data on the use of restraint and seclusion in Scotland’s schools. Further aims of the proposed legislation include that training for school staff will be put on a statutory basis and data on the use of seclusion and restraint will be required to be regularly published by the Scottish Government and reported to Parliament. A statutory basis for standards and training for all school staff will ensure that every school in Scotland is sufficiently training their staff to respond effectively to varying levels of bad behaviour in and outside of the classroom and on school grounds, whilst ensuring that pupils worth additional support needs are not subjected to the physical restraint response unless it is needed. 

The Absence of a National Behavioural Policy in Scottish State Schools; A Destructive Lack of Continuity

The key flaw to the curriculum for excellence that needs to be addressed is the principle of “child-led education”. Young people are being taught in a way that is not conducive with working in either the public or private sector. In some cases, this means that the challenging behaviour seen in schools are also spilling into the local communities which creates lasting damage and endangers the people living in them. An example of this happening was when a secondary school pupil was arrested for setting fire to the Peebles High School building in November 2019, forcing pupils to study either from home or elsewhere until February the next year. A similar case occurred when another Peebles High School pupil set fire to the swimming pool building in June last year, costing the Scottish Borders Council £1.1 million in repair costs and having a major impact on the 580 young people in the borders who rely on the facility for the Peebles ‘Learn to Swim Programme’. Cases like this are examples of a wider failure to support young people under the curriculum which directly leads to detrimental knock-on effects.

Overall, the Scottish Government should implement a national behavioural policy that is implemented in every secondary state school in Scotland. This approach to behavioural management needs to reflect the expectations and demands of the world of work. The fact that different senior management groups in different schools can enforce different behavioural policies and approaches has resulted in a complete lack of continuity and strategy whilst trying to establish what is supposed to be a national-wide curriculum. The proposed restraint and seclusion bill would also provide clarity for school staff whilst supporting pupils with additional support needs. 



Harry Ness is a journalism student at Edinburgh Napier University who enjoys writing policy blogs and political campaigning. He is the U-19s Officer for Scottish Young Labour. He tweets @HarryNessLabour

The Future Of The Green Belt: Destructive Environmental Damage or Unprecedented Housing Delivery On The Cards?

The greenbelt is intended as a vehicle for promoting environmental growth and protecting green spaces by inhibiting housebuilding on certain land. However, given our ever growing population, this rigidity is unsustainable and fast becoming problematic. The idea of the greenbelt is, at its core, a positive one, albeit one that needs modernising when it comes to its implementation. 

A False Dichotomy 

Believe it or not, it is possible to promote green initiatives and environmental causes alongside mass housing delivery. The question is where and how? Starmer’s latest pledge that Labour would build on the greenbelt may be viewed as a step backward in the UK’s battle to achieve net zero by 2050. However, this could in fact be the necessary vehicle to be more radical and ambitious if the execution of Starmer’s words are executed more effectively and sustainably. 

What Is Radical?

A 15 point lead in the polls should provide credence to Starmer’s plans and therefore a licence to be more radical if he is able to ensure his electoral campaign manages expectations without being reckless. It is right that Starmer has to be politically pragmatic from an electoral perspective, given the size of his lead. We can only hope that more concrete policy plans will be outlined closer to next autumn. 

Radical is interpreted as a scary word, or something with negative connotations and highly unrealistic. But it is more of a measure of how drastic the change that is required. Even the lacklustre 300,000 homes per year promised in the Tory manifesto of 2019  does not look like it is taking shape, let alone standard housing targets or sufficient regulation. The backbench backlash gives Starmer an opportunity to show a united front and ensure housebuilding is central to the first term of a Labour government. 

The ambition for greater devolution would be paramount in Starmer’s wish for local councils to have more powers to build new homes. His narrative of ‘backing the builders’ is a positive recognition for a strong sense of direction from Labour’s housing plans. It is critical however that Starmer shows a measured approach, so that the green belt is not ripped up but more adjusted to allow for greater flexibilities in the planning system.  

Building On The Greenbelt

Labour would grant local areas the opportunity to build houses on the green belt, but only if development would not detract from ‘the beauty of our countryside’. It is necessary to recognise that ‘beauty’ is a subjective measure, so it makes it more difficult for Labour and the wider public to assess what this constitutes. As essential as this messaging is to Starmer’s pledge, we should be more proactive in incentivising positive green initiatives, planting trees and reducing carbon emissions in specific locations to ensure that green belt building is counteracted with positive and creative initiatives to improve air quality and establish more green spaces. The two are not mutually exclusive, it is not simply “to build on the green belt or not to build.”

The key to how this policy lands will be the framing. Starmer has outlined economic opportunity and fairness argument as his lead strategy, which should provide optimism for a generation of hopeful first-time buyers where the current status quo for homeowners is very bleak. Housing is the most cross-cutting sector that will drive how a future Labour government is able to implement their policies. Families are unable to get a fresh start without providing stable accommodation and building independence from their parents’ generation. School places and the overall generation of new towns play a huge factor in this, so it is critical that Starmer gets this right. 

The broken system is about giving local authorities autonomy to make decisions and approve new developments. This would not mean terminating any building on brownfield sites, but it is clear the current restrictive system is not sustainable in the longer term. The issue of planning will be a dividing line at the next general election. It will be interesting to see if Labour imposes yearly construction targets, or whether that would be deemed politically inconvenient should they not live up to the billing. 

It is important to understand that targets alone don’t deliver homes, but local autonomy and radical policy implementation on a mass scale will be the greatest driver for Starmer’s plans. Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, previously stated her opposition to building on the green belt and urged the need for more social housing so it is critical Labour can get on the same page before launching their manifesto. Greenbelt policy ultimately cannot be effectively implemented without the reform of planning laws and releasing land to build more housing. 

An Important Legacy

The greenbelt policy is a legacy of Atlee’s government and should not be discredited. It was initially designed to protect the environment in working-class urban constituencies. It is right that the  greenbelt provides an opportunity to give populations of big industrial cities access to nature and fresh air, although it has now resulted in the unsustainable decrease of city dwelling space. The policy needs to be modernised to reflect today’s society and growing spatial changes between generations and local communities. 

Greenbelts occupy approximately 12-13% of the area of England, and it is regressive to say that there should never be alterations of these spaces. The principle of preserving green spaces can still exist whilst delivering on new homes, specifically good quality housing that is affordable in today’s climate. Starmer’s ambition to expand homeownership is one that is popular and transformative, so we will have to play the waiting game to see the policy detail in these proposals. 


Alfie Cairns works in housing policy and legislation, previously in the education sector. He joined the Fabian Society in late 2022 and has a keen interest in progressive politics, economic development, education and social mobility. Alfie is currently co-chair of a school governors board and has previously volunteered with climate action campaigns, and racial justice organisations including Every Future Foundation. 

Reflecting on “The Starmer Project” A Socialist Perspective on ‘Labour’s Ambitious Economic Agenda’

Before delving deeper into our main topic today, it's essential to comment on the FT's June series, "The Starmer Project", that the article we are rebutting belongs to. This series is devoted to examining the strategies and intentions of Labour leader Keir Starmer, particularly his efforts to bring a diverse party under a single, unified banner. Starting from the article "Labour’s surprisingly bold economic agenda", I plan to scrutinise the majority of the articles in the series, always offering a socialist perspective against the neoliberal views expressed by the FT.

On this occasion, I will argue that Starmer's leadership is marked by a courageous and necessary advance towards an equitable and sustainable future, emphasising the party’s long-standing commitment to social justice, environmental sustainability and workers' empowerment. While critical examination of political leaders is important, it's equally crucial to remember that Labour has a long-standing tradition of reconciling diverse political viewpoints with practical action. Starmer's approach should be seen less as marginalising and more about fostering consensus that can deliver tangible progress for the British people.

Moreover, with an election in sight, it is essential not to let electoral competitiveness overshadow Labour's long-standing mission: to build a fairer, more equal society.

Analysing "Labour’s Ambitious Economic Agenda"

Now, addressing the article in hand, several points warrant discussion from a socialist standpoint:

Towards A Greener Economy

Starmer's commitment to the green transition is a bold step towards safeguarding the future of our planet. His proposal to invest £28bn annually until 2030 reflects an unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability. Drawing parallels with "Bidenomics", (as if that should have a negative connotation) this plan exemplifies the potential for state intervention to redirect the trajectory of our economy towards ecological balance. 

Biden’s plan was necessary, as is Starmer’s. These plans are not only timely, but also in line with the progressive societal and economic transformations taking place globally: a trend towards a more interventionist and socially conscious approach to policy.

The pillars of what is called 'Bidenomics' include: increased government spending on social programs, infrastructure, and climate change initiatives; progressive tax reforms targeting the wealthy and corporations; and a focus on labour rights and healthcare expansion. These principles align in several ways with the Labour Party's economic agenda, which also emphasises social welfare, environmental sustainability and a more progressive taxation system. 

Concerns about the affordability of this transition must be weighed against the dire costs of climate inaction. The investment is not just a plan for green technology; it is a commitment to the preservation of our planet and a testament to Labour's understanding of the existential climate crisis.

Reimagining Workers' Rights

A cornerstone of Labour's strategy lies in elevating the rights of workers, which aligns with the tenets of democratic socialism. The plans to overhaul employment law are not merely legal changes; they represent a paradigm shift towards a more balanced power dynamic between employers and employees. This commitment to human dignity and justice in the workplace should not be minimised, but rather hailed as a critical move towards a more equitable society.

Rather than burdensome, these changes are necessary to motivate, secure, and ensure a productive workforce that can contribute to the long-term success of the economy.

Striking A Balance In Fiscal Responsibility

Despite accusations of fiscal irresponsibility, Labour's plan is fundamentally about investing in our shared future. The party leadership’s commitment to seeing debt fall as a share of GDP after five years is actually an example of the above. This approach is emblematic of a philosophy that considers the long-term welfare of the people, rather than just immediate political gains. By balancing economic realities with social necessities, such as addressing the enduring problems in British society like the ineffectiveness of the NHS and other public services to meet their aim, Labour's plan seeks to build a future that is both sustainable and compassionate. As socialists, we understand that economic decisions are not just about numbers, but are also about values and priorities.

While the FT highlights the potential challenges that Labour could face, such as high borrowing costs and the reaction of capital markets, it is essential to remember that any economic policy has inherent risks. Fiscal policy has inherent risks that the Truss government failed to identify and address in time. They were forced to U-turn, lest we forget. A key part of Labour's future manifesto is ensuring that any fiscal commitments are accompanied by robust risk management strategies.

Public Services and the Common Good

Starmer’s measured approach towards public services reflects an understanding of the need for sustainable reform. Abandoning populist promises like abolishing university tuition fees in favour of realistic and targeted improvements, such as Reynolds’ industrial strategy, underscores Labour's commitment to the common good. Starmer’s plans for insourcing public services further underline how the party prioritises improving services for all, rather than outsourcing to the highest bidder.


Radical In Its Economics, But Not A Radical Departure From Reality

Labour's economic agenda, as outlined under Starmer and Reeves, is a courageous advance towards a more equitable and sustainable future. Rather than a radical departure, it is a reaffirmation of the party’s long-standing commitment to social justice, environmental sustainability, and the empowerment of workers. Critics may call it ambitious, but for socialists, it is a vision of the future that is worth fighting for. In scrutinising "The Starmer Project", it's essential to recognise Labour’s unyielding commitment to an economy that works for everyone, not the few.

Aristeidis Grivokostopoulos is a dedicated professional in the intersection of financial services and technology, having worked in firms that operate, advise and invest in these fields. He is a graduate, and then returning student, at LSE, with an interest in monetary history and the emergence of venture investing in Europe. He joined the Fabian Society in late 2022, where now he holds a role in the Young Fabians London network, as he wanted to become more informed and active in progressive politics and policy. His aim is to transfer knowledge and experience from Britain to my homeland, Greece, as well as the other way around.

Meet the Candidate – Lauren Davison

In the first of our series of pieces highlighting Young Fabians standing in May's local elections, we hear from YF Women and Equalities Officer Lauren Davison, candidate for Hanford, Newstead and Trentham in Stoke-on-Trent.

An Anti-Racist Wales

To mark Black History Month, Welsh Finance Minister Vaughan Gething writes about the actions of the Welsh Labour Government to tackle racism in the country.

Culture Change

The aspirations of black people aren’t different to white people, but the treatment of them is. In the third part of our Black History Month blog series, Liam Martin-Lane outlines how we can change that.

Rethinking Local Transport to Achieve Net Zero

Wrapping up the Young Fabians Environment Network’s blog series, Councils and the Climate Crisis: Taking Action Locally, Charlie Hicks, a councillor on Oxfordshire County Council, outlines the role that local authorities can play in shifting transport to being more environmentally friendly. 

Ending the Local Silent Spring

George Richmond looks at how councils can preserve nature and protect the environment, such as by reviewing their use of pesticides. This is the first instalment of the Young Fabians Environment Network’s blog series, Councils and the Climate Crisis: Taking Action Locally.

Economic Update - September 2022

The Young Fabians Economy and Finance Network give their monthly report on the state of the British economy, in the wake of a disastrous mini-budget, a plummeting pound and unprecedented Bank of England intervention.

The Energy Price Cap

A week after the energy price cap for the average household rose by 80 per cent, Matthew Oulton makes the case for abolishing the price cap, and suggests a more progressive system to replace it.

Growing a Rose

Piers Digby compares the economic success of the last Labour government to the unrealistic economic pledges made by Conservative leadership candidates, and suggests how Labour can benefit from this.