5. Strengthening 'the middle' - how teachers, practitioners, schools and other local and regional partners work together to deliver education
In Governing Education in a Complex World, the OECD highlights that effective governance in multi-level education systems requires models that balance local diversity with the ability to ensure delivery of national objectives, accountability with trust, innovation with risk avoidance and consensus building with decision making. Key to this is a strong and effective 'middle' and a focus on its processes rather than its structures.
It is important that education is based within, and is responsive to, local communities. Strengthening 'the middle' was a key recommendation of the OECD in their review Improving Schools In Scotland: An OECD Perspective. Strengthening the middle means, among other things, considering what happens above the level of the individual school or early learning and childcare setting and beneath the level of national government in Scottish education. This includes: enhancing the capacity of teachers, practitioners, early learning and childcare settings and schools to collaborate and become mutually accountable for improvement; how they work with other partners; and the role of local authorities and other partners in leading and supporting improvement in education.
The OECD highlighted the importance of building teacher leadership and social capital in improving Scottish education and increasing the capacity for collaborative working and learning across Scottish education. They also highlighted the need for greater clarity about the kinds of collaboration that work best. The Scottish Government recognises that increased collaboration and greater leadership 'from and in the middle' is essential.
Our ambition is for systemic, widespread and effective collaboration and professional learning across Scotland, including, but not limited to, the network of regional, inter-regional and inter-school 'cluster' partnerships required to innovate and lead improvement. This was a key recommendation of the OECD in their report Improving Schools in Scotland: An OECD Perspective. We are therefore seeking views on the ways in which groups of schools, early years providers and other local and regional partners work together to deliver and improve education.
Collaboration and partnership working are already strong features of Scottish education. School clusters - most commonly understood as the early years, primary schools and secondary schools associated within one locality or learning community - are working right across Scotland. There are also schools which are working together in clusters or learning communities and some examples of funding being shared across clusters to deliver particular projects.
The OECD stressed the importance of creating coherent and cohesive cultures of system-wide collaboration. Not all kinds of professional collaboration are equally effective. We agree that collaboration in improving teaching, assessing, and connecting schools to take collective responsibility for each other's improvement and results should be prioritised.
The Scottish Government is committed to encouraging school clusters and other forms of collaborative working between schools and other partners across Scotland.
How can effective collaboration amongst teachers and practitioners be further encouraged and incentivised?
What services and support functions could be provided more effectively through clusters of schools working together with partners?
The Scottish Government is committed to freeing teachers of unnecessary burdens and is taking a range of actions to de-clutter Curriculum for Excellence. We recognise there may be some functions which are best delivered at a local or regional level rather than at school level.
Currently, local authorities have primary responsibility for the delivery of education in their areas. This is supported by a range of other local and national partners such as Education Scotland and from within local communities.
The Scottish Government is committed to introducing new educational regions to ensure best practice is shared more systematically and to ensure improvement is driven collaboratively, deliberately, and continuously across Scottish education.
Whilst there are some examples of partnership working across local authorities, the OECD highlighted in particular the need for greater and more effective partnership and collaboration amongst local authorities in Scottish education. Effective and sustainable collaboration amongst partners at local and regional levels is a key component of a strengthened middle and is essential to the delivery of excellence and equity in Scottish education.
What services or functions are best delivered at a regional level? This may include functions or services currently delivered at a local or a national level.
What factors should be considered when establishing new educational regions?
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