BBC BLOGS - Blether with Brian
« Previous | Main | Next »

Pay attention at the back!

Brian Taylor | 11:38 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Hands up those who think our local authority schools are well run. Thank you, hands down.

Now hands up those who think they could be better. Yes, no surprise there. But hands up those who know how to make them better.

Keir Bloomer thinks he knows. Who he?

Among many things, an education consultant, the co-architect of Curriculum for Excellence, an adviser to the Scottish government, a former director of education and local authority chief executive, that's who.

And a former depute general secretary of the Educational Institute for Scotland.

He says council control is inclined to promote stultifying bureaucracy rather than innovation and excellence.

He suggests schools might be better run by trusts or non-profit companies with more direct control for head teachers.

Opting out

Cue dismissive comments from those who presently run schools (the councils) and Mr Bloomer's former colleagues in the EIS.

In essence, the argument is about accountability. Mr Bloomer envisages a trust and head teacher answerable directly to parents and the local community.

Cosla and the EIS say accountability is better delivered via elected local authority representatives and their officials.

The weak practical point in Mr Bloomer's approach is that "opting out" - the rather inept phrase then chosen - met with resolute disdain and apathy when previously tried by the Conservatives.

Not to mince words, the weak practical point in the Cosla/EIS axis is their tendency to sound as if they are studying for a Masters in complacency.

All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. They could make Pangloss sound like a sceptic.

That is, of course, deliberately over-stated.

Pragmatic issue

There will be many in both union and council circles who recognise that Scottish education requires reform or at least quizzical scrutiny.

But the public statements tend to sound dismissive, perhaps motivated by a genuine and understandable desire to defend those currently working in Scotland's schools.

There is another pragmatic issue under consideration here. Pay. Money.

On GMS this morning, the notion of 32 councils negotiating different salary rates was, understandably, rubbished by the EIS.

But what about the concept of merit awards disbursed at the discretion of the head teacher and/or schools trust in order to keep skilled teachers teaching, rather than promoting them away from the classroom?

Again, one can see practical objections. Would the awards system be fair? Would it not tend to create two tiers of teachers, with awards perhaps going mainly to those in core subjects? Would it create jealousy and internal school tension?

Maybe, maybe. But, at the very least, it seems possible that those who support the current arrangements may need to say more than: things are fine, settle down at the back.


or register to comment.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.