Scottish Education governance proposals risk ‘zero impact’ on attainment gap
In their current form the Scottish Government’s proposals for reform of education governance will fail to make any progress in narrowing the attainment gap, Children in Scotland believes.
Responding to the Scottish Government’s Education Governance Review, the charity strongly questions whether downgrading local authority responsibility for improving education will lead to better educational experiences and outcomes for young people.
Children in Scotland’s Chief Executive Jackie Brock said: “While we welcome the Scottish Government’s clear commitment to improving all children’s outcomes, we see virtually no evidence to suggest that departing from the current model of education governance would contribute in any meaningful way to closing the gap in attainment. It is right that the Scottish Government’s determination to address the challenges of excellence and equity is matched by a willingness to hold the whole system to account in order for Scotland’s performance to improve. But we struggle to understand the leap from this legitimate and necessary calling to account, to the narrow solution of lessening local authority responsibility for improvement.
We are aware of no published evidence that suggests removing local authority accountability is necessary for enhanced educational outcomes for every child and young person or improved leadership at school level.” Ms Brock also said she found it “puzzling” that the Scottish Government cites recommendations from the 2015 report Improving Schools in Scotland: An OECD Perspective as justification for decoupling schools from local authority control. “In its report the OECD could not be clearer that ‘local authorities are integral’ to developing effective responses to closing the attainment gap,” she said.
Ms Brock added that it was important to view the proposals in the context of current financial pressures affecting councils, schools and families. “Sustained cuts to local authority budgets, combined with increases in child poverty rates, represent the greatest barrier to eliminating the educational attainment gap in Scotland – not the current system of school governance,” she added.
The charity’s stance is based on its own consultation with members, engagement with children and young people as part of the excite.ed project and discussions with the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Children and Young People.
In its response, Children in Scotland also makes the following points:
• Due to the significant changes currently being experienced by all children’s services and schools in particular, there is very little appetite for further reorganisation. A period of stability to embed change and improvement is required.
• Given concerns expressed by key education agencies and thinkers about the bureaucratic burden being placed on teachers and schools by an over-concentration on narrow assessment criteria, a more fruitful route for improvement would be to listen to the views of children and young people, together with educational experts, and focus on supporting schools and teachers to improve dramatically their approach to assessment – as recommended by the OECD.
• The views of children and young people must be front and centre in the debate about governance reform and attainment, not regarded as an ‘add on’.
• The Scottish Government’s sound principles with regard to education reform could go further by adopting a stronger child rights approach, with explicit reference to how any proposed reform will support the government’s commitment to child rights as laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
• Schools need to do more to involve a diverse range of parents within school decision making, particularly parents from socially deprived backgrounds and those who have children with additional support needs.
• The Scottish Government’s consultation could have been better balanced if it contained examples of the positive role local authorities provide in fulfilling their statutory duty to school improvement.
Read the full consultation response here.