Teaching union urges against major changes

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A teachers' union says a government review of how schools are governed should not lead to major changes in the system.

The government is looking at how to give headteachers more powers, but some councils fear they could lose responsibilities.

The SSTA said there may be a case for councils to take back some duties which have been given to schools.

The government will announce detailed plans later in the year.

In its submission to the government consultation, the SSTA argues that structural change only diverts energies and resources away from the main challenge of closing the attainment gap.

The government has indicated that it wants to devolve as much power as possible to headteachers.

'Burdens and pressures'

It also plans to create regional education boards which will work across council areas.

It still has not said what powers will lie at particular levels, although it has indicated that the presumption will be to give power to individual schools and heads unless there is a good case for having it at a higher level.

SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson said: "Unfortunately this review does not include the people and the structures in the school that support teaching and learning.

"The SSTA believes that the government needs to place the pupil/teacher relationship at the centre. Teachers need to time to teach and the support system needs to focus on the pupil/teacher relationship and remove the burdens and pressures on teachers' time.

"The consultation omits to provide an appropriate level of detail in terms of the roles and responsibilities of the various bodies within the education sector - this mitigates against an informed response. It would be unwise to make crucial decisions on the future of education based on the responses from such a consultation".

Mr Searson added: "Teachers in the classroom should make the decisions about pupils, supported by the headteacher and the local authority.

"Schools do not need further delegation; if anything local authorities should be taking back some of the duties which have been passed onto schools over the past few years due to financial cut backs".

'Growing unmanageability'

The SSTA has also argued that difficulties in recruiting headteachers "reflect the growing unmanageability of the post", with many experienced depute heads reluctant to move up to headteacher posts.

The government has received 1,000 responses to its consultation from a wide range of stakeholders.

In general, the government has argued that it wants to empower headteachers and that it wants to help individual schools do what they think is best to raise attainment.

This year, £120m will be given directly to headteachers. The greater the number of children who receive free meals, the more money a head will get.

New standardised assessments being introduced this year should also make it easier to see which schools are having more success than others in closing the attainment gap.

The government has insisted that local authorities will still have a significant role to play in the school system and that there is no question of schools simply "opting out" of council control.

'Further bureaucracy'

Meanwhile, the association of council chief executives is arguing that improved outcomes for children can be delivered without the need for wholesale structural change.

Fiona Lees, chairwoman of Solace Scotland, said: "We do not believe that focusing on further structural and legislative change is the way forward.

"This risks adding further bureaucracy to the system and takes the focus away from improving outcomes for children and young people and the communities in which they live.

"Given the inevitable disruption brought by structural change and the extra layers of bureaucracy envisaged in current proposals, this change would only be worth doing if it were demonstrably able to add value, over and above the trend we are already seeing.

"We believe it is fundamentally important to maintain local democratic control of education, through local authorities, developing local solutions, within a national framework and being accountable to local communities.

"Further, councils, working at city and regional levels should be able to continue to work collaboratively, drawing on the support of national agencies."