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'Innovate', urges Russell, as he backs greater autonomy for schools

Education secretary Michael Russell has publicly embraced the idea of greater autonomy for schools - and told local authorities it is their "duty" to come up with such radical ideas

Education secretary Michael Russell has publicly embraced the idea of greater autonomy for schools - and told local authorities it is their "duty" to come up with such radical ideas

Mr Russell had previously left the door open for the controversial idea, after it was mooted by East Lothian Council education director Don Ledingham in The TESS last year. Yesterday, at a special conference to discuss the council's plans for "community management" of schools, he declared he was "happy to embrace diverse approaches" such as East Lothian's.

He said he was "hugely heartened to see the groundswell of interest in East Lothian's proposals", and added: "I am happy to innovate and help innovation. Scottish education is diverse - let us make it more so."

Imaginative approaches from councils, Mr Russell stressed, were "fast becoming an imperative duty for educational and budget reasons".

He also singled out Glasgow City Council for praise - a significant move given the regularity with which his predecessor Fiona Hyslop clashed with Scotland's largest authority.

As well as East Lothian's proposals, he was equally willing to embrace Glasgow's plans for "using education as a tool for social change", a reference to innovations such as the city's successful nurture groups.

Mr Ledingham, writing in his blog before the event, said schools had much to gain from tapping into the local community in the running of schools, "especially in a time of challenge". He was well aware, however, of the need to avoid "pitfalls", such as selection, exclusion and the need to support more vulnerable children.

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk

AUTUMN CFE START WILL CAUSE `CHAOS' - UNION

There could be "chaos" in secondary schools if Curriculum for Excellence is implemented this autumn.

That is the conclusion of a survey by the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) and the Scottish Government, although only a quarter of the union's members took part.

It found that 86 per cent lacked confidence about being ready for implementation. Some 89 per cent said they needed more resources, and 78 per cent believed clarification over course content was essential.

About 2,300 out of 8,500 SSTA members responded to the survey, and the union said the results "clearly demonstrate the potential for chaos" if Curriculum for Excellence is implemented this autumn.

General secretary Ann Ballinger said teachers were "fully behind" the reform's principles, but were "angry and concerned at the lack of preparation and the failure to listen to their views".

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