Voice Official Response
Background: The Education (Scotland) Bill "is to create a school and teacher-led education system". The Bill will:
- "establish a Headteachers’ Charter which sets out the right and responsibilities of the headteachers, empowering them to be the leaders of learning in their schools";
- "improve parental and community engagement in school life and in learning outside of school, and strengthen the voice of children and young people, by actively promoting and supporting pupil participation";
- "provide the legislative underpinning for the establishment of Regional Improvement Collaboratives which will provide professional learning and leadership, support in both curriculum and specific sectors, sharing of good practice, and peer to peer collaboration, among other responsibilities"; and
- "enable registration of other educational professionals with the Education Workforce Council, taking on the responsibilities of the GTCS and Community Learning and Development Standards Council", which "will establish professional standards for other education professionals within the workforce".
The Scottish Government's consultation sought views on whether the proposed changes will "deliver the empowered school and teacher-led system".
Summary of Voice Scotland's response:
There is a risk that more empowerment might lead to increased competition between schools and authorities and that children in schools with less capable Heads might suffer in the longer term. Regional Collaboratives will need to monitor performance on a wider scale to ensure that does not materialise. Scottish education is risk averse. The new Charter needs to encourage innovation and risk in a controlled way that allows Headteachers and their staff to try new ways of improving the learning of children in their schools. Education Scotland have a big role to play in developing that culture.
Anything that potentially introduces inconsistency in how employees are treated gives rise to concerns. It is difficult to reconcile how decisions in staffing that might be taken at school level when the employment risks till lie with the local authority employer. Any plans to allow for variation of duties or terms and conditions between individuals brings the spectres of equal pay and claims of discrimination. We must be extra cautious on staffing freedoms. There are also real concerns about whether some of our Heads have the right skills to exercise these new flexibilities. There will be a real training need to make sure they do not act in a way that is illegal or does not comply with the relevant employment legislation.
Care also has to be exercised or inconsistencies will start to develop in workload and responsibilities.
There is a great disparity between how early years professionals are paid and treated depending on whether they work in the private sector of for a local authority. We strongly believe that there should be a common pay and conditions framework that all early years professionals should be subject to regardless of where they work.
Senior Professional Officer (Scotland)
Email Voice Scotland