Keir Bloomer, chair of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s education committee, sets out the argument for governance change
Faced with the government’s consultation paper on school governance, many teachers must wonder, “Is this really a priority?” Changes in governance and structure take up time and energy. Do they deliver anything of consequence that would justify the upheaval?
Nevertheless, the government is right to raise the issues in the paper. Scottish education is clearly in serious difficulty. Curriculum, pedagogy and assessment have all received serious and sustained attention over the last decade. However, good ideas have not yielded the outcomes that were hoped for.
Declining Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) scores, a drop in Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy performance, and inconsistent and disappointing data based on teacher judgements have generated an atmosphere of near crisis. Teacher morale remains low and workload high. The bureaucratic nightmare that Curriculum for Excellence has become is far removed from the original vision. These are failures of management, not of classroom practice.
There is clearly something wrong with how Scottish education is run. Processes of change are ineffective. Accountability is burdensome but fails to bring about improvement. Teachers receive piles of “guidance” but get little practical support.
The ideas that are put forward in the consultation paper are open to question. Will “education regions”, for example, simply add further confusion to structures that are already over-complex?
Yet, the central idea – that decisions taken at school level are more likely to be well judged and appropriate than those taken remotely – is surely right.
Teachers have strong feelings of responsibility towards young people, families and communities, but are formally accountable, not to them, but to councils, the inspectorate and government. It is time to make changes.