Prospect’s Education and Children’s Services Group (ECS) has welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to shelve its promised Education Bill, dealing with education governance and handing more powers to head teachers. It has instead decided to strike a deal with local authorities.
A joint agreement between the Scottish government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) will focus on “school empowerment, collaboration, parental involvement and engagement and pupil participation”.
Prospect ECS, whose Scottish members include professionals employed in education and school improvement, had opposed many of the proposed changes when it responded to the Scottish Government’s consultations on Education Governance and Empowering Schools.
Prospect had expressed concerns over the potential threat to local authority structures stating that “there needs to be a tier within the educational structure within which dispassionate individuals, who will hold head teachers accountable for their actions and ensure appropriate standards, are maintained”.
We also said “schools need enhanced Advisory Services with highly qualified, experienced practitioners such as Quality Improvement Officers and Educational Development Professionals, most of whom will have previously held very senior leadership posts in schools, to provide advice, support and challenge”.
As part of the new agreement, head teachers must work collaboratively with the local authority – and staff, parents and pupils – on curriculum design and improving learning and teaching.
Local authorities will be able to intervene should if any statutory duty or contractual obligation is breached and councils will continue to be responsible for the local authority education budget and the delegation of funding to schools.
Prospect ECS Vice-President, Paul Watson said: “I am pleased that the Education Secretary has backed down from legislating to hand more powers to head teachers. Prospect ECS along with many other consultees had expressed serious concerns over these proposals.
“As a professional association, we firmly believe that Scottish education practitioners need advice about developing the curriculum, improving pedagogy and explicit guidance on reducing the link between poverty and attainment.
“Practitioners need research-based advice and support on what works and high quality professional development on how to put this evidence into practice. Improving teacher effectiveness will lead to improved educational outcomes for children and young people.
“Each education authority in Scotland used to have a team of well-qualified, experienced advisers and school improvement professionals, employed to advise, support and challenge practitioners, managers and Directors.
But local authorities’ capacity to do this has been eroded over the last 20 years because of financial pressures. Many of these posts have disappeared as authorities prioritised preserving teacher numbers, resulting in the support and challenge functions of the local education authorities being seriously diluted.
“The quantity and quality of support for teachers and managers has suffered as a result of these budget cuts. School improvement professionals have a key role to play in advancing pedagogical change aimed at raising attainment and reducing the link between poverty and attainment.
“We believe this new agreement between the Scottish government and local authorities is a step in the right direction. However, Prospect ECS will continue to campaign for the Scottish Government to commit additional investment in education authorities’ school improvement functions.
“We strongly believe this will increase the provision of practical support and development for teachers and managers, in all establishments, to enable them to secure the best possible educational outcomes for children in Scotland.”