Scots council chiefs and teaching unions voice education reform concerns

classroom Image copyright Jeff J Mitchell
Image caption The Scottish government wants money to go directly to schools to improve attainment levels

Leading councillors and teaching unions have voiced concerns about Scottish government education reforms.

Education Secretary John Swinney is planning to give £100m raised through council tax straight to school heads.

Council body Cosla said that would result in "smashing" the link between local taxation and local services.

Both the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) and the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) were concerned about the speed of the plan.

They were speaking after a meeting in Edinburgh on Thursday of Cosla's education executive group.

However, Mr Swinney told BBC Scotland he had made it "absolutely clear" that he had no intention of taking control of education away from local authorities in Scotland.

He added: "But I want to focus on closing the attainment gap, on making sure that our schools support young people to achieve their potential and one of the significant commitments we made in the election was to raise £100m out of reforming the council tax system in Scotland and investing that directly in schools."

'No one votes for a headteacher'

David O'Neill, president of Cosla, said it had been a "Scottish tradition" that money raised by local authorities from council tax was spent locally.

He added: "The Scottish government will destroy that link with their plans to use council tax money for a national policy.

"Head teachers are valued and trusted public servants but they are not elected, no-one votes for a headteacher and nor should they.

"Councillors stand for election and should be held responsible for taxes raised and money spent in the area."

Image copyright PA
Image caption John Swinney, alongside Nicola Sturgeon, wants to see an improvement to attainment in Scottish schools

Teaching unions have insisted that change should not be rushed.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: "It's more important that we get this right rather than simply do it quickly. They are very ambitious timescales that have been set out."

He added: "It would be an absolute folly to look at any kind of structural reorganisation of education at a time of reduced resources, because it will simply be distracting attention from what is important, which is how you support schools and teachers in the classroom."

Representatives from the EIS, the SSTA, the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) and local government union Unison attended the Cosla meeting, along with the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace) and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES).

Education structure

Mr Swinney wants to shift responsibility for raising standards from education authorities to schools.

In addition, his plan would create "new school clusters and new educational regions".

From 2017-18 the additional £100m will go directly to head teachers to help them improve attainment, with the amount each school receives linked to the number of youngsters in receipt of free school meals.

After the Cosla meeting, Solace chairwoman Angela Leitch said: "We do have some concerns about the direct link between national funding for education and raising it through council tax, council tax by its very definition raises funding to be spent in that local area."

The SSTA's Fiona Dalziel said she was concerned about changing the structure of education.

She added: "We can't see how reorganising at this point is going to effect the quickest change, we would like things to stay as they are and to have a targeted, clarified approach to make sure that the pupils that need help the most are able to get that help as quickly as possible."

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