Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon is to press ahead with “the biggest and most radical change to how our schools are run” since devolution began in 1999.
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed she would lift the 1 per cent pay cap on public-sector professions such as teaching.
Outlining her government’s programme for the coming year, she said in Parliament this afternoon that a new Education Bill would give headteachers significant new powers, influence and responsibilities.
Ms Sturgeon, who reiterated that her “top priority” was “to ensure a first-class education for all young people”, was confirming the direction of travel outlined in the Scottish government’s Education Governance Review, published in June.
It paved the way for headteachers and local communities to have more influence over what a school should prioritise, but rejected the idea of allowing state-funded schools to opt out of local authority control. Education Secretary John Swinney has repeatedly stated that English-style academies are not suitable for Scotland.
'A positive move'
Local authorities body Cosla has repeatedly attacked the plans to give headteachers more power, insisting that more emphasis should be put on staff recruitment and curriculum design. Similarly, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson today said that an “urgent priority” should be to boost teacher numbers, which have fallen by about 4,000 since the SNP came to power a decade ago.
The EIS teaching union general secretary Larry Flanagan said it had already raised concerns over how devolution of more power to schools would affect workload and “the implications of a shift in legal responsibility for educational provision from government to individual headteachers”. But Mr Flanagan said: “Enhancing decision-making at school level can be a positive move, if this leads to an emphasis on promoting collegiate working practices and increasing resources to schools.”
He added: “We certainly welcome the first minister's statement on lifting the public-sector pay gap and on delivering a fairer deal for teachers and other public-sector workers in the years ahead”.
In another notable move, Ms Sturgeon said she would support Green MSP John Finnie’s attempts to ban the smacking of children.
Concluding her speech, she said: “No one has ever built a better country by always taking the easy options.”