Carved in stone

7th October 2011 at 01:00
Author of devolved management report says he encountered `entrenched interests'

David Cameron, author of the report on devolved school management commissioned, but not yet published, by the Scottish Government, this week hit out at "entrenched interests" who have opposed his report.

His review of school management, which was delivered to the Scottish Government in March, before the Scottish elections (TESS, 18 March), had suffered from a "lack of submissions", he said this week.

He was particularly critical of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland - of which he is a former president - for not sharing with him a report on devolved school management by John Stodter, its general secretary.

Mr Stodter told TESS that his report had been used by Cosla for its information and had been delivered after Mr Cameron's own report had been completed.

In a further attack on the educational establishment, Mr Cameron - former education director of Stirling Council - said there was a "massive conservatism in the system, despite the inevitability and scale of change we are dealing with".

His six-month old report was a "view" rather than a "policy statement", he told a conference, "Schools Management: fit for the 21st century?", run by Holyrood Events, in Edinburgh.

Yet, despite a meeting between the Government and Cosla representatives on 6 September, when he understood Cosla had finally agreed for the report to be made public, it was still not in the public domain, he said.

A Government spokesman told TESS Mr Cameron's report would be published "as soon as possible".

Mr Stodter said his analysis suggested there were potentially 20 authorities who could "significantly improve their devolved schemes"; best practice was to be found in West Lothian and Angus.

Cosla was concerned that investing more power in heads would lead to fragmentation of other parts of the system, such as children's services and multi-agency working, and about its implications for local governance, he said.

Headteachers already had control over the appointments process; their frustration lay in temporary posts which they could not make permanent, said Mr Stodter. The underlying reasons for temporary staff were: posts had to be held open by local authorities to accommodate compulsory transfers from other schools; and the Government's specification of the number of teachers that had to be employed in Scotland under the national teachers' agreement.

Headteachers did not want responsibility for a number of areas - the educational maintenance allowance, additional support for learning arrangements, psychological services, capital costs for computer systems and catering - he suggested.

He also pointed to the consistent finding by HM inspectors that around 15 per cent of headteachers were not good enough.

"Headteacher leadership is the biggest issue for this Government, along with attainment. On local government reform itself, there have been words and hints, but very little happening on the ground," he said.


Key points by David Cameron on his report

- headteachers deserve to have autonomy to bring life to their school;

- school management is not about structures but about leadership - but looking at structures might allow the system to release leadership;

- there is a lack of consistency in the delegation of power to school leaders across Scotland;

- existing guidance on devolved school management needs to be redrafted so that it "becomes ambitious and not mathematical";

- heads should be given a three-year budget to allow them to plan more effectively;

- budgets should be devolved to school clusters rather than individual schools to encourage collaboration across 3-18.

Photo credit: Chris James

Original headline: Author of devolved management report hits out at bull-headedness

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