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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.

 

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