Iain Ellis, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS), has urged councils to protect front-line budgets by sharing administrative services including payroll.
Several councils have rejected proposals to cut the school week after widespread protests, a move welcomed by both the NPFS and unions. Mr Ellis said: “Rather than make the most disadvantaged children bear the brunt of budget cuts, might it not make more sense for local authorities to look at where they could save money by sharing services?
“Currently, there are 32 different education departments doing things in 32 different ways, which is costly and inefficient. One means of cost saving could be for teacher payrolls to be either delivered at the national level or shared between several authorities.”
The rights and needs of children have to be protected by bold action, rather than being eroded through a series of cuts year after year, he added.
Mr Ellis, who has already questioned the need for education departments in evidence to MSPs, cited the rationalisation of other services in Scotland, including the police.
“Do we take education off their (local authorities’) hands completely? That is my radical suggestion.”
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said local authorities should continue to be directly involved in the delivery of education services, but that the union was open to a review of how that was best achieved.
He added: “As local authorities increasingly look at shared services, for example, in order to provide public services more economically, combining some education authorities is one model that warrants consideration.”
Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said there was an “incredible amount of duplication” and questioned the efficiency of the current model.
Kevin Keenan, finance spokesman of local authorities group Cosla, added that “Scotland’s councils should be applauded by communities for the job they have done in protecting them” in the face of extreme budgetary pressures.