Times Educational Supplement Scotland
30 January 2009
Local authorities should decide the pay and conditions of teachers, the Reform Scotland public policy think-tank argues.
The abandonment of national pay bargaining is one of a raft of proposals in a report published today, which is aimed at increasing parental choice in schooling and creating greater competition in the education market. It was dismissed as "laughable" by one parent leader.
Reform Scotland denies its proposals are reminiscent of the voucher system and opting-out legislation championed by the Conservatives 20 years ago. Opting out was about self-governance rather than providing a stimulus for greater parental choice, the think-tank claims.
Under its proposals, it calls for the introduction of a scheme giving parents an entitlement, or "credit", equal to the value of the average cost of educating a child in their authority. They suggest parents use this "entitlement" to send their child to any school which costs the same as the entitlement, or less.
However, in a bid to boost the educational attainment of the poorest children and those with special needs, Reform Scotland recommends central government give pupils a financial premium to make them more attractive to schools.
"We are setting out how we might apply principles of choice and competition to the Scottish education system, mainly because we think it is a debate that has not got off the ground in Scotland," said the director, Geoff Mawdsley.
Judith Gillespie, development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said such plans had been put before Scottish parents before – by education minister Michael Forsyth in 1989 – "and they roundly rejected them then".
She added: "This report fails to understand the reality of deprivation and how much it incapacitates families to the extent that they are not in a position to make choices on schools. The suggestion that we can randomly set up new, extra schools at this moment when we are faced with falling school rolls and restricted budgets is laughable."
However, the Reform Scotland report, Parent Power, cites research by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) that competition between schools improves attainment.