Scotland's directors of education are happy for their performance to be checked, but only if the right things are measured. Elizabeth Buie reports.The Scottish Government is being urged to bring back the publication of national attainment data as part of a new performance framework.
Bruce Robertson, outgoing president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said authorities needed to have benchmark data on attainment if they were to answer the question: "How good is Scottish education?"
A number of education directors had "missed" the availability of national 5-14 data which allowed them to benchmark schools and authorities against each other, he said. Publication of this data was discontinued by the previous Scottish Executive and replaced by a sampling mechanism for attainment.
The opportunity to establish a new performance framework comes as a result of the concordat signed by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities earlier this month. In return for a fixed council tax rate, authorities are being given much greater flexibility in how they manage their budgets and monitor performance.
While ring-fenced funding protecting educational expenditure will be largely removed, councils will have to meet seven high-level targets and 45 national indicators.
Mr Robertson, who is director of education and recreation at Aberdeenshire Council, said he felt that many of the current performance indicators used across Scotland were either outdated or meaningless. "This offers a huge opportunity for educationists to shape the nature of the new framework," he said.
He wanted to see an end to Accounts Commission statistics on occupancy rates in schools or measurements of how long it took to complete special needs records.
Mr Robertson was speaking at his association's annual conference in Aviemore which also heard from Fiona Hyslop, the Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, who said she was aware of concerns in education circles about the consequences of removing ring-fenced funding. The challenge to education directors was to ensure the Scottish Government's priorities were reflected in their budget plans as most of the 45 indicators were in the education and children's services areas, she said.
A pot of pound;115 million was being made available for capital spending, including investment in schools. She urged education leaders to get "first dibs" on such funding, ahead of demands such as flooding. Ms Hyslop took a swipe at the previous Labour-Liberal Democrat administration's preference for public private partnership funding for new schools. She said her party's government had had to find pound;65 million to service PPP commitments in year 3, which hadn't been budgeted for by the administration - an equivalent sum to what the SNP wanted to spend on wiping out student debt.
Calling for cross-party working on future school-building programmes, she said the SNP's preferred model of a Scottish Futures Trust would mean "we don't land anyone else with a bill that hadn't been budgeted for".