Head to Head

Education Governance: Next Steps announcement

After a full consultation and a long period of cogitation the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education, John Swinney, has set out his vision for the future governance of our education system.  There was a lot of coverage of the Next Steps paper in the mainstream media as well as on blogs and in social media so you may be well up to speed.  In case you decided to have a break during the holidays (!) this article tries to draw together the key points from “Education Governance: Next Steps – Empowering Our Teachers, Parents and Communities to Deliver Excellence and Equity for Our Children” and signposts a consultation paper “Fair Funding to achieve excellence and equity in education”.  

Just after the announcement our General Secretary sent members a brief summary of the key issues raised with some immediate reflections on the announcement.  He received responses and comments from many members and would welcome further engagement about this with members as the Government starts to make progress with its plans.  
It is worth noting that there has been a considerable amount of negative comment about these publications and about the fact that the decisions made in the Next Steps document seem out of step with the bulk of the response to the consultation.  That this turned out to be the case was neither a surprise nor is it a useful road to follow.  It is no surprise in the sense that, for at least three months prior to the announcement, Mr Swinney made clear that he disagreed with the conservative approach taken in the responses to the consultation.  It isn’t a useful line of argument in the sense that Mr Swinney is fully aware that his plan goes beyond what the system felt was necessary and has decided to press ahead regardless.  

The AHDS approach will be to seek to engage with the Government as they progress their agenda to try to help ensure that any change implemented is as effective as possible for Scottish Education and for our members.   

Several key points that we will be focussed on are:

Supporting Leadership – ‘HT Charter’
We very much welcome the Government’s commitment to ensure that Head Teachers are given the autonomy to be leaders of learning.  The vision is to free up school leaders so that they can focus their attention on making the biggest difference they can to the learning and teaching within their schools.  This aligns with the AHDS response to the Governance consultation and with our constitution which charges us with pursuing policy which “…secure[s] and maintain[s] the for headteachers the greatest practicable autonomy.”

Many members have been in touch to say that they welcome this element of the Government’s vision but that they are finding it hard to see how that will be delivered when the rest of the Next Steps document appears to add to the HT workload rather than take away ‘non-core’ duties.  The Government’s view is that the additional responsibilities and resources set out in the Next Steps document should enable HTs to focus on being leaders of learning.  Crucial in defining how this apparent contradiction will be addressed so that the goal can be achieved will be the HT Charter.  The bones of this are set out in the document but will be developed in coming months.  Our understanding is that the Charter will essentially set the parameters of the HT role in a way that does not currently exist.  AHDS expects to be fully involved in the development of this Charter and that working groups taking this forward will be established early in the 2017/8 school session.  We will keep you up to date with this as much as we can as the Charter emerges.  A crucial statement from the paper which will be at the forefront of our minds as we engage with this is:

“Where devolution of responsibility would not improve learning and teaching, then it will not happen.  We will not turn headteachers into chief-administrators of their schools.”

Leadership Development
Probably the decision in the Next Steps document which most surprised members was the plan to move SCEL into Education Scotland.  AHDS and many individual members felt that SCEL had been doing great work on leadership development and that it had gone about that work in a very open and participative way.  Interestingly, this is the Government’s rationale for bringing SCEL into Education Scotland – not Education Scotland as it currently stands but a revitalised organisation with SCEL at its core.  The Deputy First Minister was at pains to point out that SCEL was not being subsumed into Education Scotland, rather he agreed that SCEL’s contribution had been excellent and that he wanted it to be ‘more encompassing’, he wanted to ‘heighten its influence and make it more pervasive’.   

It was clear from a recent TESS interview with SCEL CEO, Gillian Hamilton, that following on from the initial shock and scepticism about the plan, she can now see considerable opportunity to develop SCEL’s work.  AHDS believes that for the move of SCEL into Education Scotland to be a success the integration will need to be handled very carefully so that the good work done so far, as well as the culture which has been developed, is allowed to flourish.
New Leadership Roles
The paper mentions plans for a ‘Fast-track leadership route’ as well as ‘Executive Consultant Head’, ‘Cluster Leader’ and ‘Systems Leadership’ roles.  There is also a stated intention to develop nursery/primary/secondary learning clusters and sharing resources across those clusters.  Clusters which will be ‘supported by a senior leader within each cluster’.  

Most of this is new.  Some of it is a reinvention of past structures.  All of it extends the possibility of different leadership pathways within education.  Clearly it would be possible to take a pessimistic view of the risks associated with each of the planned roles but AHDS will engage positively to better understand the intention and the plans as more detail and discussion begins.  We hope that the focus on leadership roles, leadership development and time to lead learning and teaching will help to address the severe and worsening lack of applications for headship.  As always, salaries and job-sizing will form part of this discussion.
Structural Change
Despite thoroughly reading the Next Steps document, meeting with Government officials and with the Deputy First Minister we are still not clear about the future roles (and boundaries) envisaged for local authorities and Education Scotland via ‘Regional Collaboratives’.  The suggestion is that local authorities will continue to exist but that they will work together with other local authorities in Collaboratives.  There is some suggestion that local authorities will provide staff to the Collaboratives while the leader of each collaborative will be accountable to Education Scotland.

There is a lot to be unpicked here in terms of designing, explaining and understanding an effective and sustainable structure for Scottish Education.  In addition, there are key questions for AHDS members about accountability.  We will continue to seek to understand this planned landscape and to speak up for the interests of members as it evolves.
There are two key inspection related commitments in the paper.  The first is to increase the frequency of inspection.  The second is to introduce a single shared inspection model for early education and childcare by the end of 2018.  There is no further detail on what these new inspections will look or feel like nor is there information about what increased frequency means.  

We very much welcome the shared inspection model for early years.  This is something AHDS has been requesting, on behalf of members in nurseries and with nursery classes, for a long time.  We will engage in discussion about this and the other plans for inspection as soon as possible.

Fair Funding
Alongside the Next Steps paper the Government published a consultation on ‘Fair Funding’.   AHDS is currently considering a draft response to this consultation.  In addition to consideration by the AHDS National Executive and National Council we may invite individual member comments on our draft response before submission to the Government.  Please look out for this in your inbox.    

Education Bill
Consultation on a new Education Bill is planned for this autumn.  Elements of what has already been covered in this article will be included in the Bill.  It is expected that there will also be provisions relating to:
-    The establishment of an Education Workforce Council (replacing the GTCS).
-    Strengthening existing legislation on parental involvement.

Find out more
This link takes you to the Next Steps paper, an Executive summary of the paper and the Fair Funding consultation:  http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Edu...   
The Fair Funding consultation closes on a carefully chosen date…Friday 13th of October.