Fears for pay and conditions as more power handed to schools
The Scottish education secretary has refused to rule out handing schools control over teachers’ pay and conditions as he launched a review of the way in which Scotland’s schools are run.
John Swinney said his presumption was that teachers’ terms and conditions would remain a national issue but he added that he wanted an “open” and “participative” debate about all the factors that could make “a real difference at school level”. The consultation would be kept as open as possible, he said.
The role of national bodies and organisations, including the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland, is also up for discussion during the consultation.
Launching the school governance review, Mr Swinney said that its aim was simple: decisions about education should be taken at school level.
He said that the government was committed to a comprehensive education system and that authorities would continue to exercise democratic control over Scottish education at a local level.
He stressed that he had no desire to introduce England’s “divisive academy model” or to introduce grammar schools and label children “as failures at the age of 11”.
However, local government support for education needed to be more effective, he said, as he reiterated the government’s desire to create “educational regions” to ensure greater collaboration between councils.
He said some councils were already working together and that he would be meeting monthly with Stephanie Primrose, the education spokeswoman for local authorities body Cosla, to “encourage” more collaboration.
Mr Swinney stressed it was not part of his plan to allow schools to opt out of local authority control.
However, Labour's education spokesman, Iain Gray, hit out at Mr Swinney following the announcement.
He said he had “refused to rule out a return to the discredited Tory policy of letting schools opt out of local authority control” and had “even left the door open to ending national pay and conditions for teachers”.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said: “The EIS believes that there is scope for greater support being provided to schools without compromising local democratic accountability.
"The focus of any governance review should be on how teaching and learning can be supported more effectively, rather than evolving into a turf war between the Scottish government and local authorities.”
Cosla meanwhile warned Mr Swinney to proceed with caution and questioned if the consultation was genuine and not “a set of pre-decided outcomes”.
The School Governance Review will run until 6 January 2017, with the government seeking views from children, parents, teachers and the wider community.