Unions critical of plans to give headteachers more power

Trade unions have criticised proposals to give headteachers more power, describing them as "flawed" and not supported by the majority of staff.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country's largest teaching union, and Unison Scotland, which represents school support staff, were responding to a consultation on the Scottish Government's new Education Bill.

The Bill would see sweeping reforms to the school system, including the introduction of a new Headteachers' Charter, giving heads more power over the curriculum, recruitment and budgets.

However the EIS warned only a minority of headteachers and deputies backed the move.

A survey of its members found 41% of around 400 heads and deputies support the charter, while almost 85% believed it was best delivered in best practice guidance rather than legislation.

The union also argued that rather than focusing on the formal role of headteachers, the proposals "should be seeking to entitle and empower teachers and schools more collectively".

"Regrettably, the Scottish Government is failing to look beyond the post of headteacher in its proposed reform," the union said.

"The EIS believes that the proposals represent a missed opportunity to explore what would really empower schools and teachers: collegial practice, teacher voice, professional entitlement, and a focus on cultural change, coupled with increased investment."

Education Secretary John Swinney
Education Secretary John Swinney (Andrew Milligan/PA)

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said it was clear the union's members "have very serious reservations about the nature and scale of the proposals related to their roles and responsibilities".

"These proposals could radically change the job of headteacher, creating additional bureaucratic and managerialist tasks on top of an already severe workload burden," he said.

Unison accused ministers of ignoring the views of those working in the profession.

Dave Watson, of the union, said: "It is very clear that the key problems in Scottish education are not caused by a lack of power for headteachers - it's budget cuts, a teacher shortage and loss of support staff.

"The government must put its focus on children, not structures, and provide the much-needed funding in education and wider local government services that support children and families."

Commenting on the responses, Labour's education spokesman Iain Gray said: "It is becoming clear that (Education Secretary) John Swinney's Bill doesn't have the confidence of those who will be tasked with implementing it."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Our education reforms are focused on giving schools and headteachers more power and money to raise standards and close the attainment gap.

"Our reform proposals are based on international evidence of how high-performing education systems work - and will deliver extra help for teachers in the classroom, more professional development and a stronger voice for parents and pupils.

"We welcome feedback in response to our consultation on the Education (Scotland) Bill and will consider all the responses received."

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