Tories back SNP plans to give schools more power

Education Secretary John Swinney is set to get support from Tories. Picture: PA
Education Secretary John Swinney is set to get support from Tories. Picture: PA
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The Scottish Conservatives have promised to “fast-track” plans to give schools more power at Holyrood.

Education spokeswoman Liz Smith said the party would use its new position as the second-largest at the Scottish Parliament to back SNP reforms. After losing its overall majority in the Holyrood election earlier this month, the SNP have to rely on the support of other parties to pass legislation.

Smith said her party would use the summer education summit promised by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week to push for speedy reform.She highlighted areas of agreement between the two parties, including the introduction of new school “clusters”, a review of school governance and the handing of more responsibilities to schools.

Smith said the Tories will also call for the SNP to go further by giving schools power over budgets and recruitment, allowing them to opt out of council control and including colleges into any cluster structure.

The party said its 31 MSPs would oppose any move to replace local authority governance with a new national structure.

Smith said: “There is now a clear parliamentary majority in favour of giving more power and control to school leaders. We will use our position as the lead opposition party at Holyrood to ensure that these new reforms are fast-tracked.

“These ideas include proposals for more school clusters. It won’t be for everyone, but in many parts of Scotland it will help ensure we put great school leaders in charge from the first years of primary school to pupils sitting their Highers.

“We also want to see heads getting more autonomy over their budgets and recruitment so they can take responsibility for their own schools.

“Our role will be to make sure that we really see power being driven down into school communities. If the SNP try to use these reforms simply to sweep up more power and control in Edinburgh, we will oppose.

“But if they are genuine about freeing up Scotland’s one-size-fits-all system, then we will ensure they get a majority in the parliament to bring about lasting change.”

Last night, Education Secretary John Swinney said: “Improving attainment in education is the number one priority of this Scottish Government and we want to see parents and teachers have a far greater say over key decisions in schools.

“We will look to work collectively with parents and teachers to reform education. We will listen to progressive ideas to improve Scotland’s education system from around the country and from international experience.

“However, we will not allow the search for consensus to mean the bold plans we put forward are restricted by the limited ideological position of any one other party.”