Widespread opposition to reforms in Scotland

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:
Image: iStock

Headteachers, parents, the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) and local authorities have all been highly critical of planned legislation to change the way schools are run.

All have voiced deep concerns in their responses to consultation over the Education (Scotland) Bill.

Unease centres on greater powers – and liability – for headteachers, the erosion of council accountability and the replacement of the independent GTCS with a new government organisation.

While all those responding have explicitly supported the SNP’s aims to raise standards and narrow the attainment gap between pupils in wealthier and poorer areas, they all disagreed that the Bill, in its current form, was the best way to achieve that.

“There is no evidence-based rationale for replacing GTCS, with its strong brand and highly regarded national and international reputation, with a new body,” the regulatory body stated.

It put the cost of setting up an Education Workforce Council for Scotland at around £7 million, which it said would be better spent on supporting frontline services that deliver learning and teaching.

It also criticised plans to widen registration to include some professionals not directly involved in learning and teaching, which risked undermining the identity and status of teachers. Others, including instrumental music teachers and sports coaches, would be left off the list despite their key role, the GTCS said.

As for parents, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said more autonomy for headteachers must not translate into authoritarian or autocratic approaches.

“Our experience in recent months is that there is a noticeable trend towards headteachers adopting an overbearing style towards parent councils – a matter of great concern,” wrote Eileen Prior, director of SPTC. Ms Prior also cited a potential conflict between the proposals and existing teacher contracts and employment law, particularly since teachers would continue to be employed by the local authority.

Even headteachers have been equivocal about plans to give them more powers, with many, including School Leaders Scotland (SLS) – which represents secondary heads – saying they backed them only if business managers were provided for each school, with adequate funding.

Council umbrella group Cosla accused the government of reneging on a deal struck with education minister John Swinney to ensure local authorities had a strong voice in the six new “regional collaboratives”. Under that agreement, councils were to keep responsibility for school improvement plans.

“The agreement was clear that improvement collaboratives would complement the role of local authorities. This consultation suggests replacement, not collaboration,” Cosla stated.


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