Council chief execs question need for 'disruptive' school reforms

Scotland's top council officials have told the government that planned reforms to school governance will add bureaucracy and cause disruption with little evidence that it will improve pupils' education.

Picture Ian Rutherford

The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) says teachers and heads have “little or no desire” for plans to overhaul the way schools are run, and says the government should focus on a “chronic” shortage of teachers and school leaders.

Education Secretary John Swinney is consulting on plans to create regional education boards across council boundaries, which the government says will help give head teachers more power and ensure decisions are made a school level.

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Ministers hope the measures will help turn around disappointing performance in international education rankings. The latest PISA survey results from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed standards slipping across maths, reading and science.

In its submission to the governance review, SOLACE claims standards are rising in Scottish schools when the results of all pupils are measured, but adds that it doesn’t believe the proposed changes will generate any further improvement.

“Given the inevitable disruption bought by structural change and the extra layers of bureaucracy envisaged in current proposals, this change would only be worth doing if it were demonstrably able to add value over and above the trend we are already seeing,” the response reads.

“We submit that before we can collectively define a new structure, we need to define the key strategic direction required for Scottish education and demonstrate how a new structure would deliver that extra value.

“There appears to be little or no desire for structural change from teachers, head teachers, parents, and councils or in the OECD review of Scottish education.

“Likewise, the evidence does not suggest that rigid new regional arrangements will bring about the desired improvement. The communities of Scotland vary widely and as we know one size does not fit all.”

SOLACE represents politically-neutral senior council officials and is chaired by the chief executive of East Ayrshire, a local authority run by an SNP-Conservative administration.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Iain Gray said: “These rushed reforms won’t help our schools – what will is giving our schools the resources they need to deliver a world class education.”