Response to Scottish Government’s consultation: Empowering Schools

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The Commission on School Reform has responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation, ‘Empowering Schools’.

The government aspires to create a “school and teacher-led system”. The Commission wholeheartedly supports this objective.

This means a system in which schools have very high levels of autonomy within a minimal national strategic framework. It requires a tier of governance at a very local level. This is currently missing from the proposals.

Within such a system the incentives to innovate must be greater than those to play safe through conformity. There will inevitably be greater diversity. The roles of other stakeholders, especially local authorities, will need to be redefined.

Parents and young people will need to be reassured that the new arrangements will work better than the old. This will involve careful monitoring, honest evaluation and will best be done over a period of time.

The full response, which can be read via the link below, includes the hope that the Scottish Government will pay attention to the need to:

  • Keep any national curriculum framework genuinely strategic and strictly limited;
  • Develop an effective tier of governance at school or cluster level;
  • Clarify the future role of local authorities and prevent their overriding headteachers’ decisions on delegated matters;
  • Distinguish between a legitimate challenge function and reassertion of local authority control over delegated matters;
  • Focus on introducing effective change mechanisms based on a limited national framework and extensive empowerment of schools;
  • Use the new arrangements to promote a positive culture throughout the system;
  • Adopt a phased basis of implementation of the new arrangements, allowing for piloting, evaluation and refinement of the approach;
  • Ensure that headteachers use their enhanced powers in an open manner, involving and consulting with staff, parents, pupils and others;
  • Ensure that any impact of national agreements on headteachers’ decisions on staffing matters is kept to a minimum;
  • Limit any constraint on headteachers’ control of the curriculum arising from GTCS definitions of subject qualifications;
  • Ensure that school budgets allow for the maximum level of virement between different areas of expenditure;
  • Define a limited category of areas of expenditure to be retained centrally by local authorities;
  • Expand the availability of appropriate professional development opportunities for headteachers and aspiring headteachers;
  • Ensure that these opportunities encourage genuine leadership rather than conformity;
  • Reassure headteachers regarding their management capacity; and
  • Use clusters in order to maximise the capacity available to headteachers.

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