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Young people's learning

I have no wish to be drawn into a public discussion on the merits or otherwise of local authorities as a result of the extensive press coverage of my contribution to the Headteachers' Association of Scotland (HAS) conference last Friday.

But I would like to make some relevant points. The title of my talk to the conference was "Teaching and learning in the new millennium", and covered three areas: the need for educators to be freed from the tyranny of adherence to particular philosophies or ideologies, the need for society to recognise the impact of technology on the way young people process information and the effect of this on their learning, and the need to reconcile the tension between innovation and tradition in order to minimise the negative impact on young people's learning.

Given that immediately preceding my contribution to the conference, the Education Minister had discussed the need to give headteachers more financial control and had debated the issue of salary placings arising from the present job-sizing review, discussion during my session centred on my personal views of the need for more autonomy for headteachers and the benefits or otherwise of having 32 local directorates of education.

My public position on these two issues is very well known and has not changed over the last decade or more, as two actions during my time as Strathclyde Region's director of education illustrate.

First, with the enthusiastic support of Strathclyde's elected members, I personally initiated the move in Scotland to give much more responsibility to headteachers through the delegated management of resources initiative introduced in 1990 and subsequently refined and introduced nationally as devolved school management.

Second, in opposing the abolition of regional authorities, I produced a comprehensive report in 1993, based on a detailed investigation of the experience of the Inner London Education Authority.

That report, which was approved unanimously by Strathclyde's education committee and was strongly supported by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, by the Association of Directors of Education, by the primary and secondary headteachers' associations, by the teacher unions, by a significant majority of Scottish members of Parliament, by directorates across Scotland and by national parents groups, highlighted the dangers of the loss of strategic planning capacity and the excessive financial burdens likely to be associated with the creation of 32 authorities, not least in terms of salary costs at the expense of direct services.

Frank Pignatelli

Chief executive

Learndirect Scotland

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