Empowering Schools is the misnomer headlining the SNP’s consultation ahead of their next tinkering with successful structures and approaches in Scottish education. A more accurate title would be Disempowering Local Government. The document sets out proposals that will reduce the influence and scope of education authorities, pass powers and duties to headteachers without due accountability and impose centralised distant bureaucracies onto the system.
The SEAS is concerned that the SNP are drawing from failed Tory policies in England and are seeking to dismantle the range of roles whereby local authorities lead and manage in across the 32 councils. By pushing towards education “siloed out” of local authority leadership these proposals do nothing to tackle the criticism from the Christie Commission which spoke of a system:-
“As a whole, the system can be ‘top down’ and unresponsive to the needs of individuals and communities. It lacks accountability and is often characterised by a short-termism that makes it difficult to prioritise preventative approaches.
Addressing these systemic defects will require a fundamental overhaul of the relationships within and between those institutions and agencies – public, third sector and private – responsible for designing and delivering public services.”
Tackling poverty and attainment gaps cannot be successfully carried out by schools themselves or primarily by empowering headteachers. The proposals for a Headteachers Charter seek to dismantle the strengths of our education authorities and reduce democratic accountability. Headteachers are best placed to be given additional powers within a local council.
The SEAS supports more local decision-making at school level to ensure a dynamic flexible approach to the curriculum and teaching and learning. SEAS would want Headteachers to be accountable to deliver on the “principles of democracy and social justice through fair, transparent, inclusive and sustainable policies and practices in relation to: age, disability, gender and gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion and belief and sexual orientation. “ (GTCS 2012)
Schools should be collaborating more at community and classroom level. These plans do nothing to support further development of Curriculum for Excellence as a 3-18 project.
Schools, authorities need to collaborate to fulfil this approach that includes aims of –
- developing a comprehensive wraparound model of education, care and health from early childhood and ensure that all children and family services support parents and carers where appropriate in identifying children’s needs and providing them with timeous and appropriate support
- developing a single, broad and inclusive framework for the curriculum from early childhood to adult learning. This should include personalisation and choice, depth, breadth, relevance, challenge and enjoyment and progression and value what learners know and can do so that all learners can be proud of their achievements.
The Regional Improvement Collaboratives are an answer to a question no one has asked and conflict with aims of services across the public, private and third sector working together in line with Christie recommendations.
We note the recent evidence from schools in the Northern Alliance collaborative area who told the Education and Skills Committee that they had not heard of the Northern Alliance. They shared their “scepticism about the effectiveness of a Collaborative on the scale of the Northern Alliance. It was felt that people ‘on the ground’ were best placed to know the community. Teachers wanted support from someone who knew the area they were in”
We agree with the teachers in their evidence to the Education Committee, the six RICs are too distant from the local communities and classrooms. The SEAS is strongly opposed to the bureaucratic structural change of the Regional Improvement Collaboratives.
In terms of pupil participation the document is light on encouraging the widest possible forms of pupil participation too often pupil participation is selected from a narrow group of pupils. Our schools should be encouraging the participation of all.
On the proposals for setting up a Workforce Council and attacking the GTCS SEAS feels they lack a clear rationale and seems confused about who are educational professionals, para-professional and other education staff. Many reports on Scottish education ascribe substantial strengths to the locus and role of GTCS. The proposals fail to set out why this needs to change.
The SEAS was concerned with the consultation, questions were on occasion unclear and unhelpful. We welcome the opportunity to contribute but have no confidence that the SNP will be listening to communities, teachers and parents across Scotland. The SNP cannot continue to cut budgets to local authorities and not take responsibility for problems and challenges that our authorities and schools encounter. We need real investment in education not distant bureaucracies or more unaccountable officials.