Teachers warn against school 'partnerships'

A TEACHING union has warned against a move which will see schools in East Lothian given more freedom to make their own decisions on how they are run.

East Lothian Council has announced it will delegate more powers to schools to make decisions on their budget and curriculum and move towards operating them as a "community partnership".

Parents, teachers and community members will be invited to join new groups which will be set up to advise headteachers on the priorities within their local areas.

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They will play a role in "supporting" headteachers in the running of their schools, however, the key decisions will still remain with headteachers and their management teams.

The new model comes after education chiefs decided against their controversial proposal to create arms-length trust schools.

However, while the move has been welcomed by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC), the Educational Institute of Scotland is sceptical about how it will work.

Gael Gillan, local association secretary for the East Lothian branch, said there was still a severe lack of information about how it would work in practice.

She added: "The executive powers for managing schools will remain with the headteachers but the non-executive group will be alongside them and that's what worries me.

"They will have no financial powers but what other powers will they have?

"There's not enough information.

"With a central authority at least we have a chance of having some democratic accountability which I feel we may not have should we dilute it down to clusters."

Under the new plan, headteachers will still have to adhere to the Scottish curriculum and the new Curriculum For Excellence, while the council's education department will still have the power to intervene to address any problems with attainment.

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Eileen Prior, executive director of the SPTC said she was unaware of any other local authorities in Scotland investigating the same model but welcomed the move.

She said: "As a major stakeholder, parents should be more involved and so in broad terms, we would welcome this kind of idea.

"We were watching with interest to see what would come out of East Lothian's original thoughts about trust schools and obviously there hasn't been a huge amount of take-up of that idea but it doesn't mean to say that there aren't different ways of doing things that are very much worth exploring.

"I think the time is right to do that."

East Lothian Council is looking to allocate funding to clusters of schools as a way of encouraging them to work together more.

Council leader Paul McLennan said: "This is a really exciting new departure for education.

"We are a county of strong communities with strong opinions about what should be done in our areas."Community Partnership Schools will allow us to harness local knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to deliver education in a way that meets local needs and wishes at the same time as delivering the national education agenda."

The council's education department will now work with headteachers, parent groups, unions and local community representatives to come up with a more detailed plan, which will be submitted to the education committee in April next year and will set out the next steps and time scales.