Teachers lose voice with cabinet-style governing

15th June 2001 at 01:00
CHANGES in the way councils are run make it harder for teacher associations to influence local education policies and funding, a survey by The TES has found.

Cabinet-style executives with elected mayors, leaders or council managers must be in place in all English councils by next June. The aim is to streamline decision-making and clarify local responsibility for policies.

But it means the demise of the traditional education committee, often containing co-opted representatives of the teacher associations and churches, which they say gives them a chance to express their views and influence decisions affecting their members and schools.

The TES spoke to National Association of Head Teachers' branch secretaries in 18 council areas, and found many felt that consultation, discussion and accountability had declined. David Evans, NAHT branch member for North Yorkshire, said: "Basically, the education committee has been scrapped and now there's just one person holding the education portfolio."

Under the new structures, decisions are taken by a small group of councillors in closed sessions, and then subjected to review by "scrutiny" committees of other councillors.

Around 6 or more education authorities have already changed their constitutions, or are piloting new arrangements.

Roger Hewins, NAHT council member for the East Midlands, said: "It's certainly a quicker process, but in terms of consultation and democratic decision-making, the big education committee debates about the budget don't take place any longer. Cabinet-style is anti-democratic."

Of the NAHT representatives contacted, 10 were sceptical about the new arrangements and seven thought it was too early to judge either way, although many of them had early reservations about the set-up.

Bill Hall, NAHT member for Bedfordshire, said: "Most of the heads that I know think it's not as good as it used to be. The power is invested in fewer people. So those councillors who aren't on the executive committee feel that they are just cannon fodder with little effective responsibility."

Only one head thought the council was working well on education matters. Helen Gatenby said: "Calderdale has been working very satisfactorily so far. We feel that we are being listened to but that does not mean that every council is operating like this one."

Jo Hurst and Karen Thornton

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today