John Swinney: Headteachers will not become bureaucrats

John Swinney assured headteachers they would not become bureaucrats under new plans to hand them more powers. Picture: John Devlin
John Swinney assured headteachers they would not become bureaucrats under new plans to hand them more powers. Picture: John Devlin
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Education Secretary John Swinney has insisted he does not want to turn headteachers into “bureaucrats or accountants” amid concerns plans to empower them could further increase their workloads.

Headteachers could be handed substantial new powers as part of Mr Swinney’s review of how schools are run.

Those working with the most-deprived pupils will also be given direct funding from the Scottish Government to take action to reduce the attainment gap.

At a conference for headteachers hosted by the EIS teaching union, Mr Swinney was challenged over the impact of such changes on bureaucracy in schools.

From 2017/18 the additional £100 million per year that will be raised from council tax reforms will be allocated directly to schools.

The allocation will be based on the numbers of children who meet eligibility criteria for free school meals.

The union’s general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “We don’t have any difficultly with direct funding to schools.

“It’s very valuable money, it will make a difference but it does not require headteachers to become internal auditors.”

He added: “We are absolutely opposed to any development which creates additional bureaucratic management for us ... in primary or secondary.

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“There has to be a mechanism there that ensures this doesn’t just create additional workload.”

Headteachers attending the conference in Edinburgh also raised “serious concerns” over the increased bureaucracy which could come as a result of Mr Swinney’s governance review.

They said issues such as school buildings and personnel could become an “increased focus” for headteachers while also noting the “pace of change” was too quick.

Addressing Mr Flanagan’s point, Mr Swinney said: “There is obviously a necessity to ensure that we properly account for the use of public money.

“What I have got to make sure is that all of these measures are accompanied by the most appropriate level of administration. I don’t want that to be burdensome.

“I want it to be undertaken in a fashion which enables leading teachers to be leading teachers and not to be burdened by bureaucracy.”

He continued: “My vision of headteachers is as a cohort of educational leaders the length and breadth country leading educational reforms in schools across Scotland.

“We can’t afford as part of the governance review to turn headteachers into bureaucrats or accountants or the other charges that have been libelled at me. I want to turn headteachers into educational leaders.”

He said the governance review, which will run until January 6, with the Government seeking views from children, parents, teachers and the wider community, was an “open consultation”.

“If you don’t want to be bothered by the buildings ... tell me that. But tell me what would make a difference, to enable you to do what I am asking you to do, what I really need you to do, which is to lead education in your school,” he said.

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