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Publication - Consultation responses

Empowering Schools consultation: analysis of responses

Published: 30 Apr 2018
Directorate:
Children and Families Directorate
ISBN:
9781788518581

Independent analysis of the responses to the Empowering Schools consultation which ran from 7 November 2017 until 30 January 2018.

71 page PDF

617.5 kB

71 page PDF

617.5 kB

Contents
Empowering Schools consultation: analysis of responses
Regional Improvement Collaboratives

71 page PDF

617.5 kB

Regional Improvement Collaboratives

132. The consultation paper noted that Regional Improvement Collaboratives will bring together a range of professionals with a focus on supporting teachers and other school staff working with children and young people to improve their wellbeing, attainment and outcomes.

133. The Education Bill will include provisions to provide appropriate legislative underpinning for participation in these new Regional Improvement Collaboratives.

Summary

  • More respondents agreed than disagreed that the Bill should include provisions requiring each local authority to collaborate with partner councils and with Education Scotland in a Regional Improvement Collaborative ( RIC).

A higher proportion of respondents agreed than disagreed that the Bill should require each RIC to maintain and publish annually its Regional Improvement Plan.

Views were polarised as to whether RICs should be required to report annually; or whether less frequent reporting would be a more practical and effective approach.

There was support for the frequency of national improvement planning and the requirement on Ministers to review the National Improvement Framework to be reduced.

Overall, there were some queries over the RICs in terms of their geographical coverage and their broad range of different settings; as well as their ability to deliver the required services; along with a perception from some respondents that the establishment of the RICs is a move towards centralisation and is at odds with the concept of local collaboration and accountability. There were some requests for improvements to be driven by local plans and for priorities within the Regional Improvement Plan ( RIP) to be relevant to local areas.

134. Respondents were asked a series of questions relating to the Regional Improvement Collaboratives ( RICs):

Question 13: Should the Bill include provisions requiring each local authority to collaborate with partner councils and with Education Scotland in a Regional Improvement Collaborative?

135. As Table 7 shows, of those responding to this question, more respondents agreed (195) than disagreed (133) that the Bill should include provisions requiring each local authority to collaborate with partner councils and with Education Scotland in a Regional Improvement Collaborative ( RIC). However, a significant number of respondents (97) gave an answer of 'don't know' and 249 did not provide a response. Among the different sub-groups, almost equal numbers of parent councils / fora agreed and disagreed; more local authorities and schools disagreed than agreed.

Table 7: Question 13

Yes No Don't Know Not Answered
Parent Council / Forum (103) 23 20 15 45
Local Authority (42) 3 7 2 30
Professional association / group (35) 12 4 1 18
Independent / 3rd sector (35) 8 1 3 23
School (25) 3 8 8 6
Representative organisation (13) 1 - 1 11
Further Education / Higher Education (11) 5 - 1 5
Professional learning (7) 2 2 1 2
Other education (17) 3 2 1 11
Other organisation (19) 3 2 1 13
Individuals (367) 132 87 63 85
Total (674) 195 133 97 249

136. Overall, 491 respondents opted to provide further commentary in support of their response; and a number of key themes emerged.

137. The theme cited by the highest proportion of respondents (albeit a small proportion) was of a need for further guidance, support, explanation or development before going forward or implementing the RICs; for example, there were some queries over where accountability lies with different organisations, or what the role of Education Scotland will be. There were a very small number of comments that roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined, with some reference to the need for this to be in statute.

138. The role of collaboration is clearly important and a small proportion of respondents noted the importance of sharing best practice or the need for effective ways of sharing best practice.

139. A similar small proportion of respondents commented that the Bill should not include provisions requiring each local authority to collaborate with partner councils and that this should not be a mandatory or statutory requirement of local authorities, or that choice is best left to individual authorities. Highest proportions of these comments came from local authorities and representative organisations. There were also a small number of comments that the statutory responsibilities of local authorities should not be removed (cited primarily by local authorities). A small proportion of respondents also commented that there could be a risk of dilution of knowledge and services at local authority or school level, and that local authority involvement should be maintained (cited by highest proportions of parent council / fora, local authorities and professional associations / groups). Allied to this, a similar proportion (cited most by parent councils / fora and those in professional learning organisations) noted that the RICs are unnecessary because effective collaboration is already in place with good support from local authorities, other schools in their area and other organisations involved in the delivery of education.

140. Some queries were raised in relation to the Regional Improvement Collaboratives. These included concerns over their geographical size and the range of different settings covered by each, including rural and urban settings, a broad range of different demographics and differing needs in schools in these areas (cited by highest proportions of representative organisations, schools and headteachers).

141. Allied to this were a small number of comments that the large RICs will dominate, that there could be conflicts of interest or that it will be difficult for each RIC to deliver the required services across their broad geographic area. A similar proportion of respondents also felt that the broad geographical areas covered by each of the RICs is at odds with the concept of 'local is best' and local collaboration, with some respondents suggesting that this puts local accountability at risk and centralises power that is supposed to be at a local level. The Northern Alliance was given as example of being too large and unmanageable or impractical because of its size, although there were also a very small number of comments that the Northern Alliance was set up through choice and has not been established on the basis of 'contrived collegiality'.

142. A small proportion of respondents made recommendations for specific types of people who should be involved in RICs, the key thrust of which was the need to ensure a broad range of different groups and interests are represented.

143. An issue that the establishment of RICs would lead to an additional and unnecessary layer of administration and bureaucracy was mentioned by a small proportion of respondents. Furthermore, some respondents noted that there is no evidence that establishing the RICS will be beneficial in terms of child outcomes and attainment levels, with some holding a perception that this might reduce the quality of teaching.

144. A small proportion of respondents also noted that the RICs are already established.

145. The campaign response suggested that RICs will lead to cuts in spending on education and increase bureaucracy for headteachers.

Question 14: Should the Bill require each Regional Improvement Collaborative to maintain and to publish annually its Regional Improvement Plan?

146. Table 8 demonstrates that a higher proportion of respondents, across all sub-groups, agreed that the Bill should require each RIC to maintain and publish annually its Regional Improvement Plan (218 agreed and 129 disagreed, although 78 respondents said 'don't know' and 249 did not give a reply to this question).

Table 8: Question 14

Yes No Don't know Not Answered
Parent Council / Forum (103) 24 20 15 44
Local Authority (42) 8 3 1 30
Professional association / group (35) 13 3 1 18
Independent / 3rd sector (35) 6 1 4 24
School (25) 8 8 4 5
Representative organisation (13) 2 - 1 10
Further Education / Higher Education (11) 4 1 1 5
Professional learning (7) 3 2 - 2
Other education (17) 6 2 - 9
Other organisation (19) 4 2 - 13
Individuals (367) 140 87 51 89
Total (674) 218 129 78 249

147. The key theme emerging to this question, from the 424 respondents who provided further commentary, was that the requirement for each RIC to maintain and to publish annually its Regional Improvement Plans ( RIP) would allow for transparency and clarity. A very small proportion also noted the need for any Plans produced to be subject to public scrutiny and for accountability on the part of those producing Plans. Of the small proportion directly noting support for this proposal, there were comments that the Regional Improvement Plan offers a wider picture and overarching view, that it is useful or that it facilitates best practice.

148. A small proportion of respondents noted their disagreement with the RIC model and a desire to retain the status quo. Another theme was that improvements should be driven by local plans which relate to national priorities and that local authority reporting would be more meaningful and should be retained (highest support for this came from local authorities); also a concern that the RIP could result in priorities that are not relevant to local areas and that decisions should not be removed from local communities. A small proportion of respondents also commented that schools are best placed to lead on school improvements, that it is important that planning is focused at a school level and that there should be an expectation on a RIC to produce a plan that mirrors what is expected of schools, or that schools must have a say on what is in the RIC plan.

149. Echoing a key theme from the previous question, a small proportion of respondents were also concerned that this would create bureaucracy and more paperwork.

150. Small proportions of respondents commented specifically on the issue of reporting periods, with a very small proportion noting that annual reporting is too frequent and leaves little time to implement improvements. There was a suggestion from a small proportion of respondents for reporting every 2-3 years; and a similar proportion suggested that there should be an annual update on progress but with a three year or longer period of reporting. It was felt that a longer planning cycle allows for greater engagement and longer term strategic planning, and represents a move away from short-term thinking; also, it would coincide with current school planning cycles.

151. Other comments were made by very small proportions of respondents and some echoed those seen at the previous question. New themes emerging included:

  • Requests for more detail and clarification.
  • All stakeholders should contribute to regional plans / there should be an equal voice for all stakeholders and that Regional Improvement Plans need to be fully inclusive.
  • The need to consider the current planning landscape and align the planning cycle to other plans affecting the delivery of children's services; this would allow for streamlined planning and reporting mechanisms.
  • There is a mismatch between the bodies providing the policy direction and the funding that will be required to deliver any improvements.

152. The campaign response reiterated the point made at the previous question.

Question 15a: If we require Regional Improvement Collaboratives to report on their achievements (replacing individual local authority reports), should they be required to report annually?

153. Table 9 shows that of those responding to this question, views were polarised as to whether RICs should be required to report annually (155 agreed, 166 disagreed, 86 gave a response of 'don't know' and a further 267 did not offer an opinion). Of those responding, higher proportions of respondents within local authorities, independent / third sector organisations, schools and other education organisations were opposed to annual reporting.

Table 9: Question 15a

Yes No Don't know Not Answered
Parent Council / Forum (103) 24 18 15 46
Local Authority (42) 3 6 3 30
Professional association / group (35) 7 7 1 20
Independent / 3rd sector (35) 2 5 4 24
School (25) 4 10 5 6
Representative organisation (13) - 2 1 10
Further Education / Higher Education (11) 3 2 - 6
Professional learning (7) 1 2 - 4
Other education (17) 1 4 1 11
Other organisation (19) 3 3 - 13
Individuals (367) 107 107 56 97
Total (674) 155 166 86 267

Question 15b: Would less frequent reporting ( e.g. every two years) be a more practical and effective approach?

154. Once again, views were polarised as to whether less frequent reporting would be a more practical and effective approach, with 170 respondents agreeing and 148 disagreeing (88 said 'don't know' and 268 did not give an opinion). Higher proportions were in agreement with less frequent reporting across all sub-groups, with the exception of parent council / fora, those in further and higher education and other organisations.

Table 10: Question 15b

Yes No Don't know Not Answered
Parent Council / Forum (103) 18 23 17 45
Local Authority (42) 9 2 1 30
Professional association / group (35) 8 5 2 20
Independent / 3rd sector (35) 4 3 4 24
School (25) 9 3 7 6
Representative organisation (13) 2 - 1 10
Further Education / Higher Education (11) 2 3 - 6
Professional learning (7) 2 2 - 3
Other education (17) 3 2 1 11
Other organisation (19) 2 3 1 13
Individuals (367) 111 102 54 100
Total (674) 170 148 88 268

155. Overall, 443 respondents opted to provide additional commentary in support of their answer, although any themes and issues were cited by very small proportions of respondents. A number of respondents reiterated issues they had raised at the previous question.

156. The key theme emerging in response to this question was that changes take time to implement and produce results ( i.e. less frequent reporting would be a more practical and effective approach). Other new themes emerging, each from small proportions of respondents included:

  • Reporting is important in that it allows for better accountability and transparency.
  • Less frequent reporting would mean less bureaucracy with less time spent working on reports.
  • Local authorities should continue to have a statutory responsibility for improvement.
  • Various comments in relation to reporting periods, including the need for reporting every 3 years, every 2 years or annual reporting or having a 3 year rolling programme of ongoing developments.

157. The campaign response noted that local authorities should continue to have statutory responsibility for improvement.

Question 16: In making changes to the existing planning and reporting cycle, should we consider reducing the frequency of national improvement planning and the requirement on Ministers to review the National Improvement Framework?

158. As demonstrated in Table 11, greater numbers of respondents agreed that the frequency of national improvement planning and the requirement on Ministers to review the National Improvement Framework should be reduced (204 agreed compared to 86 who disagreed; 114 gave a 'don't know' response and 270 did not provide an opinion). All the professional associations / groups, local authorities and representative organisations giving a definitive answer agreed with this suggestion, although views were polarised among parent council / fora.

Table 11: Question 16

Yes No Don't know Not answered
Parent Council / Forum (103) 18 17 22 46
Local Authority (42) 7 - 3 32
Professional association / group (35) 13 - 3 19
Independent / 3rd sector (35) 1 2 5 27
School (25) 9 2 8 6
Representative organisation (13) 2 - 1 10
Further Education / Higher Education (11) 2 2 1 6
Professional learning (7) - - 2 5
Other education (17) 3 2 1 11
Other organisation (19) 3 1 2 13
Individuals (367) 146 60 66 95
Total (674) 204 86 114 270

159. Of the 385 respondents who provided additional commentary in response to this question, the key theme to emerge and cited by nearly one in five respondents, was that too much change has been happening within the education sector and time is needed to embed this, to allow for change to take effect and for implementation of the vision and actions from the National Improvement Framework ( NIF). This comment was made by respondents across all sub-groups, but highest proportions of respondents were within professional associations / groups, schools and HE / FE institutions.

160. A small proportion of respondents noted the need for three year or longer term plans; although slightly fewer respondents also noted there should be annual reporting in order to address issues and assess the effectiveness of the NIF.

161. Smaller proportions of respondents cited new themes and these included:

  • The need for Scottish Ministers to be accountable and keep the NIF under close scrutiny.
  • A need for rationalisation of reporting across children's services.

162. The campaign response noted disagreement with changing the frequency of the national improvement planning or decreasing the requirement on Ministers to review the NIF; it felt this is another way to increase liability on headteachers and decrease Ministerial accountability.


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