An Education Delivery Plan for Scotland was unveiled by Deputy First Minister John Swinney. The Scottish government has made certain commitments on education which include closing attainment gap over next five years; launching review into devolving funding and decision-making to schools and communities; simplifying Curriculum for Excellence and streamlining teacher guidance; investing in teachers and moving from a “culture of judgement” to “system of judgement.”
Mr Swinney said the proposals would deliver a “world class education system” in Scotland and that it would “substantially close” the attainment gap over the next five years and aimed to reduce the workload on teachers.
Scottish schools could be given more power over their funding. The blueprint would allow for millions of pounds of funding being given directly to headteachers to allow for key decisions to be made at school level – with a new national formula established to provide a universal standard for staffing after concerns of inequalities across Scotland.
In addition, in September this year Mr Swinney will launch a review of the way schools are run which will examine how to “empower” schools and parents and “decentralise management.”
This, he said, would be targeted at the “encouragement” of school clusters within new educational regions designed to ensure that parents, colleges, universities and employers could all support efforts to raise attainment.
Mr Swinney said: “Currently, legal responsibilities for delivering education and raising standards in our schools sit largely with education authorities, not with the schools and teachers that teach our children and young people every day.
“We will address this imbalance by extending to individual schools responsibilities that currently sit with local authorities. We will introduce a new Education Bill in the second year of this Parliament.”
Mr Swinney went on to say he wanted to create the “right structures” to enable children, parents, teachers and communities to participate fully in school life.
He added: “In September I will launch a review of governance…. it will consider the changes needed to education to empower our teachers and schools, seek to devolve decision making and funding to schools and communities and support the development of school clusters and new educational regions.
There are also plans to simplify the Curriculum for Excellence by January 2017 in the government’s “blueprint” to improve education.
Mr Swinney’s wide-ranging plan Delivering Excellence and Equity in Scottish Education, called for a new focus on literacy in the first three years of primary schools to close the “vocabulary gap” with school inspectors focusing directly on progress in this area.
Mr Swinney said the Scottish government would be “relentless” in its efforts to ensure every child had the same opportunities and an equal chance to succeed.
“We must ensure our curriculum, applauded by the OECD, can be delivered so that our teachers are free to teach and our children have the opportunity to learn.
“We will give teachers confidence about what the Curriculum for Excellence expects of them. We will de-clutter the curriculum and strip away anything that creates unnecessary workload for teachers and learners, to remove the current burden on teachers.
“I will directly oversee this activity supported by a panel of teachers whose voice and experience will inform what is taken forward.”
Mr Swinney added: “Today marks the start of a new journey for Scottish education that will ensure we realise our ambition for excellence and equity for every child and young person in Scotland.”
A spokesman for council body Cosla said: “We will study this plan closely and take time to fully assess our position. Cosla has already told Mr Swinney they share the same educational aspirations as Scottish Government, that they are keen to work with him and he needs to keep dialogue open and ongoing.”
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said that the timescale involved was “challenging” and risked repeating previous errors by not allowing schools time to consider the proposals.
Flanagan said the EIS welcomed any measures that would “cut bureaucracy and reduce excessive workload”.
But he also cautioned that if there was any suggestion of centralising control of schools and reducing the role of democratically elected local authorities in running education, that would be an issue of huge concern for the teaching profession.