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News Release 30Dec 2010

EIS calls for examination of role of Local Authorities in Education


The Educational Institute of Scotland has called for a thorough examination of the role of Scotland’s 32 local authorities in managing education provision and running schools. As local authorities increasingly look at shared services in order to provide public services more economically, a reduction in the number of education authorities and a possible move towards dedicated education boards is one model that warrants serious consideration, the EIS says.

Commenting today, EIS General Secretary Ronnie Smith said, "We live in difficult economic times, and all public services face the challenge of how to continue to provide a high level of service in a more cost-effective manner. In this context, it is right that we ask questions about the need for 32 individual local authorities to deliver national education policy, operating schools and providing education for our young people.

Applying economies of scale in certain functions such as administration, procurement, human resources and specialist support services could save a considerable amount of money and allow the vital front-line provision of learning and teaching to be protected.”

Mr Smith added, "Since devolution, the Scottish Parliament has had responsibility for national education policies such as class sizes and the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence. The 32 local authorities are responsible for the implementation of these policies at a local level in our schools."

"However, the current Scottish Government established a Concordat arrangement which gives flexibility to local authorities as to how to apply their funding arrangements and local priorities. The EIS believes that all too often important national policies have become diluted at a local level as local authorities identify their own policy priorities which are not always consistent national policy.”

"Just as debates have started on possible restructuring of several other public services, the EIS believes there should be a review of the delivery of education at a local level. One proposal which merits further exploration is that school education should be managed through a number of specialist education boards.”

"Education boards, focussing purely on education, would have a clear responsibility for school education at a local level and could have clear benefits in terms of ensuring consistent delivery of nationally agreed educational priorities and policies. However, it would be equally important that there was proper democratic accountability within the boards so that local views and priorities are not overtaken.”

Mr Smith added, "With past experience of the difficulty in delivering national priorities through the Concordat with local authorities, it is worrying that the Scottish Government has again struck a budget deal with COSLA, a Concordat Mark II, which provides a shopping list of desired Government priorities without any levers to ensure that they are delivered. As the Concordat proved, you cannot seek to deliver such national priorities while at the same time promising more freedom to Councils to set their own priorities on education.”

"Scotland’s comprehensive system of school education has served our young people and our communities very well in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. But, in these difficult economic times, we need to look at better ways of supporting and running our schools in a way that protects front-line learning and teaching."

"Properly supported, properly funded schools based on the sound principles of comprehensive education must continue to be a top priority for our Government. However the best means of supporting and running those schools at a local level in the face of budget cutbacks is something that we must now explore.”

For further information, please contact Brian Cooper on 0131 225 6244