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Headteachers 'must keep learning throughout their career’

Long-awaited ‘charter’ for heads in Scotland tells them to stick to evidence-based decisions and to involve parents more

‘Headteachers must keep learning throughout their career’

Headteachers should constantly update their own learning and give parents a central role in school life, according to new guidance in Scotland.

The School Empowerment Working Group also recommends that collaboration between educators – with colleagues in schools and beyond – will be crucial in the coming years, and that headteachers’ decisions should be “evidence-based”.

A range of new “support materials” published today by Education Scotland includes a “headteachers’ charter for school empowerment”, which arrives after first minister Nicola Sturgeon previously said it would appear by the end of 2018.

The original idea was for wide-ranging legislation setting out how to hand more power to Scotland’s schools and headteachers, but the long-awaited Education Bill was shelved last June.

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The Bill was intended to introduce a new “Headteachers’ Charter”, giving school leaders more responsibility for the curriculum, staffing and school finances, but education secretary John Swinney struggled to secure cross-party support. Within the profession, some welcomed the prospect of more responsibilities for heads, but others were concerned that it would leave heads overloaded, particularly in the primary sector.

Empowering headteachers

The two-page charter published today includes the advice that heads should: “Empower staff to continually improve practice, encouraging professional dialogue, supporting career-long professional learning and collaborative enquiry, and the use of research and evidence-informed practice.”

It adds: “Headteachers should model a commitment to lifelong learning through their own practice.”

The charter also calls on heads to work more closely with parents' groups, “encouraging and supporting parents to be involved in the life of the school and in decision-making”.

Chief inspector Gayle Gorman, who has today written to headteachers about the new materials, said: “These materials have one simple aim – to let the best people at each level deliver the best results for learners. Progress towards empowerment should enable the system to be more responsive, decisive and agile when meeting individual and local needs.”

Her letter states that “establishing an empowered system, which includes schools, teachers, pupils and parents, is crucial in improving the life chances of our children and young people”.

The materials have been published as Scotland’s 32 local authorities are setting their budgets, with many complaining that a drastic shortage of funds is forcing them to consider once-unthinkable cuts. This month concerns have been raised about the progress made under Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence.

Deputy first minister and education secretary Mr Swinney said that the heads’ charter and other materials “demonstrate a strong shared commitment to headteacher and school empowerment and an ambition to ensure that decisions about the day-to-day life of a school are taken at a local level”.

EIS union general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The empowering schools agenda creates a real opportunity for professional voice and agency to be made central and critical to how our school system works.

“This extends from formal leadership posts, which are clearly of major importance, to leadership at all levels. As ever, the litmus test for any change is how it impacts on practice in the classroom.”

Jim Thewliss, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said that the recommendations, “by emphasising the powerful impact which can be achieved through a collaborative approach to supporting learners…will further empower schools to meet the needs and aspirations of young people”.

Ken Muir, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, said he welcomed the emphasis on collaboration and partnerships, which were “increasingly driving change in education”, through, for example, the GTCS’s close work with other bodies on student placements and professional learning.

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