Greater powers for heads

26th November 2010 at 00:00
Education Secretary sets out plan to give school leaders more say through devolved management

The Education Secretary intends to beef up powers for headteachers.

In an announcement today, Michael Russell will reveal that he has asked David Cameron, former president of the Association of Directors of Education, to chair a review of the present system of devolved school management (DSM) and produce new guidance by next March.

Although the timing is coincidental, the move comes a few weeks after The TESS revealed that East Lothian Council leaders plan to abandon their proposal for turning schools into devolved community-based trusts.

The council has not, however, turned its face against giving schools greater autonomy, possibly involving clusters of schools. This is one of the issues the Cameron review will look at.

Mr Russell is making his announcement at the annual conference in Cumbernauld of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland. He stresses the importance of maximising the impact of the money spent on education in the current financial climate.

He says of the DSM review: "This will include looking at what education funding is devolved to headteachers, how much flexibility teachers have to determine what this is spent on and how devolved school management could work in clusters of schools. I believe this to be important in order to empower our headteachers.

"I also know that education authorities are thinking about school clusters. This is something that I encourage.

"I believe schools working in partnership with one another, with other local public services and with the local community is desirable for many reasons.

"This can widen the pool of talent and widen the scope for the generation of new ideas. It could make sure specialisms emerge and that leadership could be nurtured and developed.

"I believe these benefits can be delivered through the mutual support and increased capacity of schools working together."

Mr Russell will find his political opponents receptive. At a question-and- answer session during last week's annual conference of School Leaders Scotland, Des McNulty, Labour's education spokesperson, said he favoured giving headteachers more autonomy, except over staff salaries - a caveat endorsed by Mr Russell's junior minister, Keith Brown.

Liz Smith, education spokesman for the Conservatives, repeated her party's call for greater powers for headteachers. "The last thing you want is a one-size-fits-all situation, which is particularly inappropriate in today's world," she said.

Since April 1996, local authorities have been required to devolve at least 80 per cent of their "available" funds to schools, but it is largely up to them to decide what is devolvable.

Figures for 2007 showed great variation across the country, from 100 per cent of budgets devolved in Aberdeen to only 67 per cent in Aberdeenshire. The national average was 89.5 per cent

A review of the scheme in 2001 found it was inflexible and complex in some parts of the country, while not all headteachers were fully at ease in charge of their own spending.

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