Minister denies plans for hit squads to sort out failing schools

PETER Peacock, the education minister, yesterday denied he planned to send "hit squads" into failing schools in an effort to raise standards.

Council officials, opposition MSPs and senior teaching figures have attacked plans to give ministers more power to intervene in schools as "window dressing".

Under the plans contained in the School Education (Ministerial Powers and Independent Schools) Bill, ministers would have powers to force councils to take action if inspectors found they had not acted on a critical report.

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Ultimately, ministers could issue an enforcement action and councils would be under a legal duty to comply.

The parliament’s education committee heard claims yesterday that the measures were unnecessary.

Ewan Aitken, education spokesman for the local authority umbrella body COSLA, said: "It would seem to us to be a strange power to bring to the table. I wonder what would have to happen for the power to be used and no-one has so far been able to explain that."

Alex Easton, of the Headteachers’ Association of Scotland, said: "We have some puzzlement that when there are so many other exciting challenges in schools, we should be devoting time to having something there just in case we need it."

But Mr Peacock told the committee that the bill was necessary to fill a gap in his powers.

He said: "The powers that we’re seeking are not about hit squads or ministerial takeovers of our schools, but ensuring that education authorities themselves take action to ensure improvement.

"These are last-resort powers and I believe they are proportionate to the situation."

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