Socialist monoliths;Letter

6th August 1999 at 01:00
IAN DUTTON (TESS, July 23) is to be congratulated for being the latest educational adviser to join the growing number of people who believe that the Scottish Parliament should consider taking the responsibility for delivering state education away from local authorities and handing it over to groups or clusters of schools that are closer to the community.

Critics of such community-based schemes will raise the spectre of centralisation in Edinburgh or isolation for schools without specialist support, but in both cases they are way off the mark.

The centralisation of the delivery of education should be fiercely resisted but so far appears to be a red herring as I have not yet heard anyone argue for it.

Similarly the Scottish Conservatives recognise that their goal of creating self-governing schools throughout Scotland failed to gain widespread support because of a generally hostile political climate.

However, Mr Dutton is clearly arguing for something different and such innovative thinking should be encouraged. By allowing groups of schools greater freedom to determine what kind of education they wish to deliver, what strengths they wish to develop and how they manage their affairs is without question one of the factors that helped self-governing schools such as Jordanhill in Glasgow and St Mary's in Dunblane to be so successful.

It is not without irony that Glasgow is introducing a pilot cluster management scheme at Eastbank Academy and St Mungo's Academy with their respective feeder primaries.

The greater autonomy will include the appointment of a bursar to relieve headteachers of much of the present administrative role. If these pilots prove successful there is a genuine prospect of extending the scheme throughout the whole of Glasgow.

One has to ask what then will be left for the council other than the provision of specialist services and could these not be provided by other agencies?

Supporters of diversity and choice should not refrain from challenging our monolithic municipal socialism but should use the Scottish Parliament as a means to creating a debate which at the very least will force local authorities to do better.

Brian Monteith MSP Scottish Tory education spokesman

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