Fears of teaching differences in Scots schools

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Flagship plans to hand sweeping new controls to headteachers could see differences emerging in classroom teaching across Scotland, education bodies fear.

There are also concerns it could undermine efforts to tackle the current shortage of headteachers in Scotland as workloads and responsibilities are driven up.

Fears of teaching differences in Scottish schools. Picture: PA Wire

Fears of teaching differences in Scottish schools. Picture: PA Wire

The proposals are at the heart of the Scottish Government’s Education Bill which would also see the introduction of closer working between good and poorer performing schools in new Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs). The changes are being driven by education secretary John Swinney as part of a push to drive down the attainment gap between schools in affluent and less well off parts of Scotland. And a consultation into the plans, which attracted almost 700 replies, has found a mixed response to the radical changes.

The new Headteachers Charter is aimed “empowering” teachers to put them firmly in charge of teaching and learning in schools. But the need for consistency across school , so that the same teaching curriculum is broadly found across the country, was noted by about a fifth of those who took part in the consultation.

“The headteachers charter could create inconsistencies across Scotland, with a small proportion of respondents being concerned that some headteachers might focus on specific elements of the curriculum at the expense of others.”

Local councils, professional bodies and third sector bodies were most concerned about this issue.

Concerns over the “current teacher and headteacher shortage” in schools was also raised, amid fears that until this is resolved the charter is likely to have a limited impact.

The RIC’s also met with some queries over their ability to deliver the required services, as well as a perception from some respondents that they will be a move towards “centralisation.”

Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “There needs to be a wholesale move away from central control of education towards schools themselves. The SNP claims this is what it wants too but the imposition of large, top heavy regional collaboratives will do the opposite, leaving many local authorities unsure of the role they will have.”

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the Scottish government has failed to create a consensus for school reforms.

“Support is at best lukewarm and divided, and there is much scepticism of the need for legislation,” he said.