Highland Council driving quality improvement in education
7th September 2017
Chair of the Highland Council's People Committee, Councillor Alasdair Christie, today questioned proposals for changes to the governance of schools, set out in the Scottish Government programme announced this week.
Speaking at today's Council meeting, Councillor Christie said: "The biggest risk to our goals for improving children's attainment in education is in the Scottish Government’s plans to dilute the role of Local Authorities. We are proud of our teachers and our schools, and proud of the quality of education in Highland Council. We are not complacent and always seek to improve, but there is no evidence that a new regional body will improve learning and teaching, or the educational outcomes of our young people. Highland schools should be managed in the Highlands, and not from Edinburgh."
He continued: "I believe that local democratic accountability must be at the heart of the delivery of Scottish education. In Highland, we are committed to continuous improvement in education, to achieve the best outcomes for children as part of an integrated children’s service.
"The Council considered the Scottish Government’s proposals at its meeting in June, and was concerned that they removed local democratic accountability for the delivery of education, and would impose new layers of bureaucracy, which would do nothing to support Head Teachers, improve educational performance or help close the attainment gap.
“Local government across Scotland has raised similar concerns, and I am extremely disappointed to see no evidence that these have been taken account of in the Government’s announced programme.
“The Highland Council has committed to work with Government to endeavour to influence these proposals in a more positive and constructive direction. We will continue to do that, and over the next few weeks we intend to issue a number of briefings and public statements on this issue."
The Scottish Government’s proposals for school governance are set out in a Next Steps report, published in June and available at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/06/2941
Next Steps proposes only one model for the future governance of Scottish Education and suggests that these proposed arrangements constitute the only way to raise attainment for all and the only way to close the attainment gap.
The report proposes largely ‘back office’ support functions for local authorities. It does not provide well founded rationale for the proposed removal of the local authority from its current, democratically mandated strategic leadership and management role.
Elected Members of the Highland Council currently work closely and effectively with their schools and parent councils. They provide clear, strategic leadership to officers and have always demonstrated a high level of commitment to the quality of education provision for Highland communities.
The Council has a sound track record of innovative practice; e.g. the development of integrated services for children and families. Furthermore, the Highland Council can demonstrate clear and determined commitment to collaborative working with other Local Authorities in order to improve outcomes for pupils.
The proposed new governance structures indicate a centralisation of decision making regarding education, which will mean more bureaucracy for Headteachers, and will be unhelpful for parents, pupils, communities and schools.
The public is being asked for its views on proposals by The Highland Council to review the maximum level of charges for the hire of taxis or private hire cars fitted with taxi meters operating under licence of The Highland Council. The Council has a statutory duty in terms of Section 17 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 to review its scales for the fares and other taxi related charges every 18 months.
A report published today by the local authority spending watchdog looks at how councils are using the estimated 130 ALEOs (arms-length external organisations) in Scotland, which have an annual spend of more than £1.3 billion, and the impact they are making. ALEOs can take many forms - such as companies, community organisations or charities.
Members of The Highland Council's Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee have given their backing to new shop front guidance aimed at ensuring high quality designs for traditional, replacement and new shopfronts throughout the Highlands. The Guidance sets out general principles for repair, reinstatement and replacement of shopfronts, as well as general principles for new shopfronts in new development.
Councillor Matthew Reiss, who represents the Thurso and Northwest Caithness Ward, has been elected as Chairman of The Highland Council's Caithness Committee. He takes over from Councillor Donnie Mackay who has held the role since June 2017.
Members of the Caithness Committee have on Wednesday 16th May 2018 approved the Council's 2018/19 structural maintenance programmes for roads in the area for the coming year which reflects both the strategic network and the importance attached to local roads by rural communities. The revenue budget for road maintenance activities in Caithness for 18/19 is £1.214M of which £0.539M is allocated for winter maintenance with a further capital budget of £0.785M The Highland Council's allocation to areas for structural road maintenance is based on the results of the annual Scottish Road Maintenance Condition Survey, safety inspections, service inspections and input from local members.
The Highland Council remains on track to deliver much-needed affordable homes across the Highlands as recent figures produced show all new home completions in Highland are on the up. In its Strategic Housing Plan 2018-2023 the Council has a pledge to approve a minimum of 500 units each year of which 70% will be for affordable rent and 30% for low cost home ownership.
AVIEMORE now has access to free WIFI in and around the centre of the town thanks to a project led by the Highland Council and funded by the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal. The free WiFi, called "High-Fi", is aimed at stimulating economic growth and will increase digital inclusion across the Highlands.
The Highland Council has considered Audit Scotland's report on Local Government in Scotland, Challenges & Performance 2018. Audit Scotland recognises that councils will continue to face difficult decisions with limited resources.
The work of the Redesign Board has been considered by Council today. The Redesign Board is fundamentally changing the way the council does things.
The annual Local Scrutiny Plan (LSP) 2018/19 for Highland Council was considered by Council today (10 May 2018). The plan is based on a shared risk assessment undertaken by representatives of all the scrutiny bodies who engage with the council and shows no additional scrutiny is required of the Council during 2018/19.
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