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Call to take school funding out of council control

Scottish schools should be managed and funded directly by a funding council modelled on the body which funds further education colleges, according to Lord Sutherland of Houndwood.

The former principal of Edinburgh University, and former chief inspector of schools in England, is advocating a system that would take schools out of local authority control, saying that the past 30 years of council-driven education policy had failed to tackle the problems of schools in Glasgow beset by the most severe social deprivation.

Delivering a lecture at the annual Stanley Nisbet educational colloquium at Glasgow University, Lord Sutherland said his model of funding - a central schools funding council with six regional boards - would channel more money to schools most in need and give more independence and autonomy to headteachers and teachers to apply the solutions they felt were needed to tackle deep-seated problems in their area.

The prospect of more money to spend on their schools and more chance to shape the school's policy would be relished by potential headteachers and help to tackle the current difficulties in attracting applicants for senior education posts, he suggested.

Lord Sutherland proposed that around half of the membership of the new council might come from the local authorities, thus maintaining democratic accountability. Regional education boards and schools would have to produce school plans which would be monitored by the inspectorate.

He said the current system in Scotland, where funding is on the basis of pupil roll and local authorities appear to vary in how much they pass on directly to schools, was failing those schools in greatest need.

Instead, funding should take two forms: a per capita rate per pupil and a development increment set in the light of the agreed school plan. He also advocated premium payments to attract the best teachers to the most difficult schools.

"A similar, though admittedly smaller-scale, transition of funds and responsibilities was achieved in relation to further education colleges,"

Lord Sutherland commented. "I do not know of any FE principal who would vote to return to the oversight of local authorities."

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