Chapter 6: School and teacher empowerment
There was a general sense, across all organisations and individuals, that the current level of devolution of responsibility at school level was adequate. The DSM scheme was highlighted as a particular strength of the system.
If change was to occur, the most frequent suggestions revolved around staffing and budgetary control.
There was a strong emphasis on the need to not increase workload and burdens on schools and teachers. Governance changes were assumed to bring with them additional levels of bureaucracy.
Overall, respondents agreed that some schools were already working collaboratively within and between schools. However, some believed that it was not enough.
The issues hindering greater collaboration amongst teachers and practitioners were related to resource limitations, primarily lack of time and money.
The consultation document asked respondents what changes to governance arrangements were required to support decisions about children's learning and school life being taken at a school level. The document also asked what services and support functions should be delivered by schools and what responsibilities should be devolved to teachers and headteachers to enable this.
This section covers:
- Governance arrangements at a school level (section 6.1)
- Teacher collaboration (section 6.2)
- Teacher education and professional learning (section 6.3)
6.1. School level Governance
Strengths of the current system
The view of a large majority of respondents was that the current system of governance at a school and head teacher level was sufficient. With some exceptions noted below, there was a lack of appetite for the devolution of further responsibilities from local authorities to schools.
The main strengths of the current system of governance cited by respondents were:
- The DSM scheme; and
- The support and services currently provided by their local authority.
However, some organisations pointed to the variability and inconsistency between local authorities in regards to how the DSM scheme was applied. Others commented on whether the devolution of budgets was meaningful, as there are some national commitments that schools do not have any control over ( e.g. staffing levels). Some respondents suggested that a more consistent application of the scheme across Scotland may be beneficial. Organisations did not comment on what specific changes they would like to see in order to ensure greater consistency. Due to the low number of spontaneous responses, it is not possible to accurately break down the strength of feeling between subgroups ( e.g. how local authorities feel about DSM vs headteacher associations). For example, local authorities referenced the scheme the most often of any group, however this only amounted to around a quarter of local authorities.
Suggestions for improvement
There was general consensus amongst respondents that increased powers for schools, with current levels of staffing, would bring an increase in bureaucracy and workload, which in turn would distract from the staff's primary goal of teaching and children's overall education.
When respondents did express a desire for a change within the system, these changes most often fell under the broad headings of:
- increased budgetary control (particularly procurement); and
- increased control over staffing.
It should be noted that, within the consultation, there was an overwhelming emphasis placed on not increasing levels of responsibility and workload for teachers and head teachers. This is relevant, as respondents may have simultaneously indicated a desire for control over staffing, but did not wish to take on responsibility for human resources or finance due to the perceived increased workload. Respondents did not provide a means of resolving this conflict.
Other concerns expressed about further devolution of powers to schools include:
- The implication for equality and inclusion, for example, if schools were in charge of admissions;
- A lack of consistency arising from head teachers pursuing different approaches;
- A loss of oversight and control by elected councillors.
Necessary measures in the event of further devolution
Both organisations and individuals felt that any increased responsibilities that may arise from governance changes would require a series of adjustments in order to not exacerbate current workload issues.
The main suggestions provided by the majority of respondents revolved around:
- The recruitment of budgetary managers for each school who could help deal with any newly acquired administrative responsibilities around staffing and procurement.
- A shift in the nature of the training provided to head teachers, as some respondents felt that the change in the nature of the work meant that the role would shift away from teaching and more towards management, and that current training left them ill-suited for the new role.
Although some respondents suggested that schools would currently benefit from support from a budgetary manager, it was seen as a prerequisite moving forward if governance changes moved current responsibilities from local authorities to individual schools.
Many respondents felt the increased responsibilities would have a negative impact on head teacher recruitment. They speculated that this would be due to a mixture of increased workload, increased need for training and a shift away from in-class involvement.
The following sections look specifically at the two key suggestions for change regarding budgetary control and staff.
a) General budgetary control
Opinions were split amongst respondents in regards to increased budgetary control. Whilst the majority of respondents expressed their belief that head teachers should focus on educational matters, rather than becoming 'accountants', others were more open to the idea of increased control in the allocation of funds within a school.
The few suggestions on how to achieve this were mixed between:
- Greater co-operation between headteachers and local authorities in relation to how budgets are allocated.
- Funding going directly to individual schools.
However, even amongst those who welcomed increased budgetary influence, this typically extended only to what was seen as 'educational' matters, rather than general managerial responsibilities such as HR or building maintenance.
Although there was a mixed response to increased budgetary control, the consensus amongst respondents was in favour of an increased level of autonomy in regards to procurement.
Many respondents (particularly amongst parent councils) felt that schools would be well served by being able to go outwith the local authorities' lists of approved providers when attempting to procure resources. School Leaders Scotland made specific reference to desiring control over commissioning services or entering service level agreements. However, they did not provide additional information beyond those specific references e.g. what areas of procurement they were not interested in.
Many respondents felt that the current arrangements and channels were too slow, inflexible and provided poor value for money. They complained that local authorities had a limited list of suppliers, which prevented them from finding better deals elsewhere. Most comments referred to classroom materials and ICT equipment.
Some respondents felt that schools would benefit from being able to arrange individually tailored service from local providers. However, a few respondents, namely local authorities, noted that there were inherent risks in accountability should head teachers have total control over procurement contracts.
In addition, a few individual respondents highlighted that central bulk buy can ensure economies of scale.
Along with procurement, the other change that had relatively prominent support was for a greater degree of 'control' and 'power' over staffing choices. This idea was more contested by individual respondents although, on the whole, the general feeling was that more control over staffing would be desirable.
Specific examples tended to revolve around:
- The ability to retain good teachers and remove underperforming ones.
- A desire to promote/reward exemplary teachers.
- The flexibility to respond to needs as they arise - particularly in relation to ASN staff and supply teachers.
This type of arrangement was seen as being preferable to having teachers assigned from a wider authority-level pool of candidates. The Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland and School Leaders Scotland mentioned a desire to have control over the appointment of staff and the filling of vacancies but made no comment about other areas of staffing e.g. HR.
In addition, it was felt schools should have the ability to control the level and type of support staff they could employ, as well as the accompanying resource required to maintain them. However, groups representing support staff (namely the trade unions, GMB, Unison and Unite) were concerned that they could be isolated within schools if employment and management were transferred from the local authority.
A few individual respondents, mainly teachers, were concerned that devolving recruitment decisions to school level might expose teachers to discretionary behaviour by head teachers and reduce their job security.
There were concerns raised by some respondents that devolution of full staffing powers to schools may expose some schools, particularly smaller establishments, to heightened risk in managing long-term staff absences if they were required to cover costs for a replacement. It was noted by a few respondents, that in smaller schools single members of staff may represent a large proportion of the budget.
6.2 Teacher Collaboration
The consultation document asked respondents how effective collaboration amongst teachers and practitioners could be further encouraged and incentivised. A broad range of views and ideas were provided.
Effectiveness of current arrangements
Overall, both organisations and individuals agreed that some schools were already working collaboratively within and between schools. Examples of existing practice were Professional Learning Community approaches, already in place in some schools or across schools. However, some respondents believed that current collaboration was not enough.
Many felt that effective collaboration amongst teachers and practitioners did not need to be specifically encouraged or incentivised, as most teachers want to collaborate and learn from one another. It was imperative instead to enable collaboration through greater resources - time and money.
Challenges faced currently to enable collaboration
As stated above, most respondents felt that the two greatest challenges hindering greater collaboration amongst teachers and practitioners were time and money. Beyond resources, other challenges mentioned by respondents include:
- Teacher supply. Many schools reported that they could not release teachers to work collaboratively because there would be no one to teach the class.
- Accountability and competition. Current accountability systems were cited by some organisations as creating unnecessary competition between schools, for example through the release of published information or the potential creation of league tables. It was believed that competition between schools generated a powerful disincentive to co-operation across the system.
Any specific ideas on incentives for collaboration
Individual responses, in particular, primarily focused on providing more funding to facilitate collaborative work - either through extra pay or through additional staff, which would reduce contact hours for teachers.
However, some of the ideas provided by respondents to incentivise collaboration amongst teachers and practitioners included:
- Having greater opportunities to rotate around areas, sectors and regions.
- More secondment opportunities.
- Shared training and in-service days, for example between clusters.
- A non-negotiable clause on collaboration, making it an obligatory requirement as part of Career-Long Professional Development.
- Providing guidance on best practice in collaboration.
6.3 Teacher Education and Professional Learning
The consultation document asked respondents how governance should support teacher education and professional learning in order to build the professional capacity needed.
Continuous Professional Development
Analysis of the consultation responses showed that CPD was highly valued by the profession. In order to further encourage CPD, some issues were identified by respondents:
- Greater opportunities and resources to enable CPD. Many respondents requested a more coherent and effective system of releasing staff and that adequate time and resources should be made available for CPD to happen.
- Budget. A call for an allocated budget to be set aside for CPD at a school level.
- Consistency. Some organisations mentioned that CPD is currently delivered in a variety of ways by a variety of providers. Some called for greater co-ordination between the different bodies ( e.g. Education Scotland or Scottish College for Educational Leadership). Respondents did not specify how this co-ordination could improve the current system.
- Adaptability. CPD to support teachers who want to concentrate on teaching, as well as those who want a more managerial role.
- Self-evaluation. Scope for adding a component of self-evaluation and reflective practice as part of CPD. For example, conducting peer reviews within clusters or being accountable for the impact CPD has had on pupils.
A valued profession
Many respondents referred to the profession as a whole when answering this question. There was a general desire for the teaching profession and wider workforce to be highly valued, to be held in higher esteem, to be attractive, to offer a competitive salary and a career pathway people are drawn into. As would be expected, these comments were often made in relation to teachers, however greater focus on support staff (both in and out of the classroom) was highlighted throughout the consultation responses when discussing this topic.
As part of this, some respondents suggested that there should be an ongoing review and audit of the teacher education provision and how fit for purpose it is.
Initial Teacher Education
Initial Teacher Education ( ITE) was a highlighted area of concern for many respondents. Some respondents suggested that schools should be more involved in the design of ITE programmes and that schools should feel a greater sense of responsibility for the training of future teachers. It was suggested by some that more dialogue between schools and universities should take place to plan appropriate ITE.
There were several specific areas of concern in regards to ITE:
- Discrepancies. There was a sense amongst respondents that greater uniformity was required, that the ITE offering across universities should have the same 'core'.
- Teaching to teach. There was a sense amongst organisations that the current ITE framework would benefit from a greater emphasis on teaching how to teach. No further detail was provided.
- Raising standards. The main issue raised by individual respondents was the need to raise the standards of newly qualified teachers. Respondents saw it as the responsibility of universities and colleges to act as gateways for good applicants. Some respondents mentioned a need to focus on the areas highlighted by the OECD report - for example, assessment and evaluation.
- Better planning. Some individual respondents believed there should be better planning of ITE across Scotland to meet staffing requirements, with a recognition that many people on ITE want to train locally.
- Focus on early years. A few individual respondents mentioned the need to ensure that teachers can qualify as early years practitioners in Scotland.
Email: Stephanie Gray
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House