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BLOOMER: TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE RATHER THAN INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENT IS REQUIRED

Response to Government consultation calls for clusters

The Commission on School Reform, chaired by former Director of Education Keir Bloomer, has published its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation Empowering Teachers, Parents and Communities.

The full response can be read here using the link below.

In addition to its answers to each of the 17 questions, the response made five key observations:

  1. The Commission welcomes proposals to give schools, teachers, parents and other stakeholders greater autonomy, believing that it will lead to higher standards and greater diversity within the system
  2. The Commission recommends a position where all decisions affecting the pupil experience should be taken at school level, with very few deviations from that norm.
  3. The Commission notes that the Government’s summary of the current governance arrangements presented a monolithic system with a single governance model. However this neglects important exceptions to that rule, including Jordanhill School, an exceptionally successful publicly-funded school outwith local authority control, and other types of publicly-funded pluralist schools including Roman Catholic schools and others.
  4. The Commission notes that the Government’s commitment to pass more power to schools would fundamentally alter the relationship between schools and local authorities, with power moving both towards schools and towards central government, with a significant impact on local democracy. That change will require a new vision for the role of local government.
  5. The Commission’s paper advocates that change can and should be evolutionary rather than taking place simultaneously at every school in the country. Change should take place only when the ground has been well-prepared and need not take place at the same pace or even in the same form throughout the country.

Commenting, Chair of the Commission on School Reform, Reform Scotland Advisory Board Member and former Director of Education Keir Bloomer said:

“The current arrangements for running our schools are sufficient to sustain a good education service, but not an excellent one. If we truly want to excel, and to close the opportunity gap for the 20% of Scottish young people let down by the system, it needs transformational change.

“As the OECD has recognised, there is an urgent need to strengthen the intermediate tier of governance, so that schools are better supported. The best basis for doing this is to give more decision-making powers to schools and to encourage them to collaborate with each other.

“The Commission believes there is a significant role to be played by the creation of school clusters, overseen by a Board of Trustees placing significant new expertise at schools’ disposal. This would be a truly Scottish solution to our Scottish problem.

“It is most likely that such clusters would be formed around a secondary school and its associated catchment-area primary schools, and the Commission would wish to see the clusters empowered to remove the current limitations on schools’ ability to control staffing budgets and freedom to appoint staff of their choice.”

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