Staff driving education reform don't believe they can deliver

A major overhaul of Scottish education to improve standards has been thrown into doubt after staff at the national body driving the reforms passed a damning indictment on its ability to deliver change.

A major overhaul of Scottish education to improve standards has been thrown into doubt after staff at the national body driving the reforms passed a damning indictment on its ability to deliver change.

Fewer than one in ten workers at Education Scotland believe that ­previous changes delivered by the organisation have been “for the ­better”, while just 7 per cent said that change is “managed well” by the organisation.

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The survey shows a steady decline among staff about confidence in decisions made by the “leadership team” and in their “vision for the future”.

Teachers have criticised many of the Education reforms.

Education Scotland has faced harsh criticism from teachers in recent years over its handling of the new Curriculum for Excellence, amid claims of excessive guidance and confusion over the exam system.

And opposition leaders have described the findings of the survey as “devastating” and called for the quango to be reformed.

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “Parents, teachers and education authorities have told John Swinney that Education Scotland needs reformed, that it is part of the problem not the solution.

“These figures show that Education Scotland’s own staff have devastatingly little confidence in the capacity of their own organisation to deliver, and it is getting worse year on year.”

Teachers have criticised many of the Education reforms.

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said teachers are worried that the body is to have an “expanded role” in overhauling the education system. She added: “The Scottish Government should reform Education Scotland.”

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott said: “The Education Secretary should recognise that Parliament voted in March 2017 to split the policy and inspection functions of his quango and accept the benefits to education in separating these conflicting roles.

“Perhaps then Education Scotland can begin to rebuild the trust of teachers and its own staff.”

Months of uncertainty at the body only came to an end at the start of December when new chief executive Gayle Gorman finally took up the role at the body after the departure of Bill Maxwell earlier in the year.

She recently appeared before MSPs on Holyrood’s education committee to set out the central role which the body will play in the regional improvement collaboratives (RICs), which will be central to the reforms planned by John Swinney.

These will see top schools working more closely with poorer performing schools to close the attainment gap between rich and poor areas of Scotland.

But a report by the Scottish Parliament Information centre (Spice) has set out the findings of the recent UK-wide civil service people survey, which found that staff confidence in the senior management at the organisation has sunk to a new low.

Just 7 per cent of Education Scotland’s staff either agree or strongly agree that change is “managed well” by the organisation in 2017 – down from 
11 per cent the previous year and 10 per cent in 2015.

Similarly, just 9 per cent thought “when changes are made, they are usually for the better”, down from 16 per cent in 2016 and 16 per cent in 2015.

And only 18 per cent of those who responded had confidence in the leadership team in the 2017 survey, down from 20 per cent last year and 32 per cent the year before.

Ms Gorman said: “As the new chief executive, I believe that people are at the heart of an effective organisation.

“I am disappointed to read the results of this staff survey and am committed to working with colleagues at Education Scotland to address these ­concerns and build a positive, collaborative culture going forward.”

Under the flagship changes proposed by Mr Swinney for the new RICs, their heads will be appointed with the agreement of Ms Gorman, in her dual role as Chief Inspector of Education.

Education Scotland staff will also form part of the “core team” in each RIC and its key strategic plans must all be agreed by Ms Gorman.

The initiative forms part of a broader government plan for a shake-up in school governance.

It aims to give as much power as possible to individual headteachers and schools to help empower them to do what they think is right to raise attainment.

The Scottish Government hopes to close the performance gap between children from relatively well-off and poor backgrounds and drive up standards.

Local authorities are protective of their traditional role in the education system. Some had feared the RICs would take powers away from individual councils.