Highland Council discusses education governance
14th December 2017
Highland Councillors considered Scottish Government's proposals for changes to the management of schools at today's meeting of the Council.
The Scottish Government is proposing new legislation on education, which would include a Headteachers Charter, placing even more responsibility and accountability for the running of schools on Headteachers, with other responsibilities passing to a new collaborative organisation covering Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles, Argyll and Bute as well as Highland.
Senior leaders expressed concern about the centralisation of key education functions, and the loss of local checks and balances. There are concerns that the proposals could lead to tensions between different parts of the education system, and the fragmentation and isolation of schools from other services for children. Additional concerns highlighted the lack of detail regarding the resourcing of the new structures, as well as the additional management burdens that would fall on schools.
After the meeting, Alasdair Christie, Depute Leader of Highland Council, said: "Councils have been involved in detailed discussions with Government about these radical proposals since June. While limited progress has been made, we remain concerned about the Government’s continual centralisation agenda, and about the additional workload that will fall on Headteachers.
"The Government argues that radical, structural change is needed and that the current system is too complex. The Council believes these proposals do not simplify the current arrangements and no evidence has been produced that they will improve attainment in our schools. In fact, they would introduce new layers of bureaucracy, confuse responsibility for the management of schools, and remove local and democratic accountability."
He added: “Highland Council is committed to working with Headteachers to drive school improvement and reduce bureaucracy. We welcome collaboration to share expertise and resources, but we do not believe that new formal, structures are necessary which remove the say in our children’s education away from Highland.
“This matter is of the greatest importance to the education of children and young people in the Highlands. We shall be writing to all parents and teachers about this, early in the new year. We will encourage them to read these proposals, and to send in a response to Government before the end of January deadline."
Education Governance Proposals
The Scottish Government published Education Governance: Next Steps in June of this year. It can be found at http://www.scot/Publications/2017/062941
This document sets out the case for radical changes to the roles, responsibilities and legal duties of Headteachers, Parents, Local Councils and National bodies such as Education Scotland.
In June of this year, the Council agreed to work with Government, including through CoSLA, the Northern Alliance and other forums, to endeavour to influence these proposals in a more positive and constructive direction. This activity has helped achieve some changes in Government thinking, including that the new Regional Collaboratives should be authority-led, and not managed through Education Scotland.
On 7 November, the Scottish Government published a further consultation document on the proposals, ahead of intended legislation to enshrine them in law. This is entitled: Empowering Schools A Consultation On The Provisions Of The Education (Scotland) Bill (available at http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/11/9712)
This new consultation runs until 30 January 2018.
Speaking at Highland Council's Corporate Resources Committee today (24 May 2018), Budget Leader Cllr Alister Mackinnon said that the Council's reported overspend showed the extent to which successive budget reductions and council tax freezes meant the authority had no wriggle room to manage significant pressures in demand-led services like supporting children with additional support needs. He said:"We have done everything we can to protect front line services and particularly services to children and young people.
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.
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