Poverty is the cause of schools' problems, not councils, says local government leader

6th October 2016 at 15:13
Poverty, not councils, to blame for the attainment gap
Scottish council leaders are concerned that schools could be taken out of local authority control, but education secretary John Swinney insists there will be no move to England's 'divisive academy model'

Scottish councils should protect the services they “cherish” and resist the removal of education from local authority control, council leaders was expected to argue.

David O’Neill, president of local authority umbrella body Cosla, was today expected to warn that the Scottish government's review of school governance could lead to the role of councils in education being scaled back or removed entirely.

Speaking at Cosla’s annual conference in Crieff today, he will say: “They may call it erosion – I call it removal.”

Last month the Scottish government launched a review of the way in which schools are run, which will see responsibilities that have traditionally sat with councils passed to headteachers.

In the future, education secretary John Swinney has said he wants the presumption to be that decisions are taken at school level.

However, he has stressed the Scottish government will not adopt England's "divisive academy model”.

In England, schools have had the power to opt out of local government control for over a decade, with the number of academies having increased dramatically in recent years. However, it remains unclear whether the changes have led to improvement, with teaching unions opposed and a number of big academy chains being criticised for failing pupils.

According to Mr O’Neill, it was not Scottish councils that were to blame for the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils, but poverty.

He was expected to say: “Councils have a good record in education and are not the problem – the OECD report stated local government is not the problem. And we all know why, because poverty is the problem.”

He will argue that the government was looking to centralise education because that was “the fall-back position” when money was tight. But that did not lead to “efficiency and effectiveness”, he will say. Rather it led to “increased cost, inflexibility, an inability to respond to local requirements and lesser outcomes for communities”.

He will point to the centralisation of the fire service and police in Scotland adding these had “hardly been a roaring success”. 


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