Call for 'massive power shift' to headteachers

A CALL by a leading educationist to scrap local government control of state schools has led to demands for a "massive power shift" from politicians to headteachers.

Keir Bloomer, a former council chief executive and one of the group which helped create the Curriculum for Excellence, suggested that after next year's election the new Scottish Government should set up a commission to examine how schools are run.

Mr Bloomer said there was "no reason why clusters of schools could not be directly funded and take control of all their functions".

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He said that local authority control of education led to "stagnation" and also prevented schools from adapting to the changing needs of the global economy.

And he added: "There is a global problem at the moment that education systems are falling behind the needs of the modern world and Scotland is no different.

"Councils are very slow to adapt and so are schools because there is no incentive to innovate - conformity is encouraged and that is backed up by the school inspection regime."

Mr Bloomer, who spoke at a Managing Scotland's Schools conference in Edinburgh, said a national review of the running of schools should be launched by the Scottish Parliament after next year's election.

Responding to his comments, Peter Peacock, a former Labour education minister, said the "pendulum needs to swing towards headteachers" in the relationship between schools and local councils.

He said: "There needs to be a devolution of authority over schools from local councils to headteachers. There's a need to redefine the role between headteachers and local authorities and the pendulum needs to swing towards head teachers.

"Head teachers have nominal budget responsibilities, but this is tied mainly to staffing.

"My view is that headteachers should be free to appoint staff in addition to this and to decide on how the staff are deployed."

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Mr Peacock added: "It's open to further argument about whether local authorities should continue to manage school meals and transport to and from schools.

"While it wouldn't be wise for individual schools to take the lead on these things, groups of schools might be able to do so.

"A debate is required about the role of local councils in schools, but whatever the outcome there needs to be a massive power shift to the school level.

"This is needed to allow schools to be more innovative to meet the demands of the Curriculum for Excellence. Staff need more professional space to decide what is taught in schools."

Mr Bloomer's comments were backed by the Tories and Liberal Democrats at Holyrood, who want to see more powers handed to headteachers.

Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "These are very welcome comments from Keir Bloomer.If we are prepared to allow schools and their head teachers more freedom to make their own decisions then schools can only flourish."

Lib Dem education spokeswoman Margaret Smith added: "Headteachers should be given the flexibility to deploy their resources as best they see fit."

However, the teachers union the Education Institute of Scotland (EIS) claimed that the current system worked well and insisted politicians should be "very careful to jettison what has served Scotland so well".


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COUNCILLORS are set to hold a crunch meeting to decide whether to move power away from local authority education chiefs to teachers and parents.

East Lothian Council announced plans earlier this year to look at running clusters of state schools at arm's length from council control.

Now, following a series of "major sessions" discussing the issue with parents, teachers, educationalists and councillors a decision is due to be made on a change to the way East Lothian schools are run.

However, it is understood that the options due to be discussed at a full council meeting next month will stop short of taking schools fully out of council control.

A council spokeswoman said: "A paper will be going to the council in December on this."