Headteachers promised greater power in wake of Cameron review

14th October 2011 at 01:00
Devolved school management revamp to give them `meaningful control'

Guidance on devolved school management is to be revised in line with one of the key recommendations in the report by former Stirling director of children's services David Cameron, the Scottish Government has announced.

Mr Cameron's review was published last Friday, six months after it was delivered to Education Secretary Michael Russell before the Scottish elections - but its recommendations have been widely discussed in the interim (TESS, 18 March).

The Government said the main recommendation of Mr Cameron's report was that existing guidelines on devolved school management should be revised and implemented to provide more opportunities to give headteachers "meaningful control".

The process of revising the guidance will be led by the local authorities' umbrella body, Cosla, and is expected to be completed in spring 2012.

Cosla's nervousness about the implications of the Cameron report is understood to have been one of the causes for the delay in its publication.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, told a conference on devolved school management last week that Cosla was concerned that investing more power in heads would lead to fragmentation of other parts of the system. These included children's services and multi-agency working.

He was asked by Cosla to compile a report on the various ways councils operate devolved school management after the issue of greater headteacher autonomy featured in the manifestoes of all the main political parties in the run-up to the Scottish elections - after the Cameron report had been submitted to the Government (letters, page 30).

Lack of consistency in approach to devolving funding to headteachers has been identified by Mr Cameron and Mr Stodter as a key feature of current practice.

But directors are becoming more vocal about the benefit they add to education performance.

Annette Bruton, who became director of education at Aberdeen City Council in 2009, told the devolved school management conference, run by Holyrood Events in Edinburgh last week, that in the five-year period prior to her appointment, school attainment had gone down when the authority was run on an area basis, with no director of education.

Although schools had a "great deal of opportunity to do things differently", with some achieving spectacular success, they had suffered from a lack of strategic and spending direction, she said.

"Most did a `satisfactory' job," Mrs Bruton said, referring to HMIE quality indicators for school performance.

And some schools faced "significant challenges around Curriculum for Excellence" because they had no strategic direction.

Aberdeen's financial problems - had forced everyone to work in a more collegiate way "because Aberdeen had no money years before everyone else had no money".



Aberdeen City Council this summer recorded its best S5 Highers results for 11 years, despite having suffered tougher budget cuts than elsewhere because of a massive overspend before the recession took hold.

Annette Bruton, Aberdeen's director of education, attributes this success in part to giving senior pupils more choice in their subjects.

"When we give more children more of their choices - where they get three of the five choices they want to study - these are the three where they make the best progress," she said.

Her department is developing a city campus model to widen option choices at Higher and Advanced Higher level in a partnership of schools, colleges and universities.

Aberdeen's education department under Mrs Bruton has also promoted:

- the reintroduction of comparator secondary school data;

- a stronger focus on attainment;

- reviews of STACS secondary attainment tables, which now involve primary heads;

- greater collaboration among headteachers in place of the previous "go- it-alone" approach;

- an online Scottish baccalaureate partnership with Shetland Islands Council.

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