Concerns over education reforms highlighted by committee

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Concerns around ministers’ plans to overhaul governance in schools have been highlighted by a Holyrood committee.

The Scottish Government has been consulting on a new Education Bill which includes proposals to hand headteachers more powers and disband Scotland’s governing body for teaching.

The Education Committee has heard from teachers, pupils and parents about what the proposed changes would mean for them.

It has written to Education Secretary John Swinney setting out its findings, including calls for clarity around the new Headteachers’ Charter and the creation of an Education Workforce Council for Scotland.

The new charter would see heads handed more power over the curriculum, recruitment and budgets, however trade unions have already criticised the move, citing increased workload pressures for school leaders.

In its letter, the committee noted: “The Committee heard that the capacity of headteachers and their schools to absorb additional responsibilities will, of course, not be uniform across the country and there is a potential risk to effective implementation if the correct support is not provided and the capacity of a school, or school education as a whole, to implement reforms is not assessed.”

The committee also highlighted strong views on the government’s plans to disband the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), which is responsible for registering teachers and upholding standards, and create a new Education Workforce Council.

The council would take on the responsibilities of the GTCS, the Community Learning and Development Standards Council and register other education professionals.

The committee stated: “The strength of opinion on this particular proposal was notable from teachers, headteachers, other affected professionals and a number of parents.

“Themes included support for the GTCS model, the historically significant role the GTCS has performed in establishing teacher standards and the standards the GTCS currently sets.”

It continued: “Another common observation was the value of having a professional body specifically for teachers as this guards against a diminution of the perception and status of teachers with parents and wider society.”

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

“They will deliver extra help for teachers in the classroom, more professional development and a stronger voice for parents and pupils.

“We also want headteachers to be supported and empowered, which is why our recent consultation on the Education (Scotland) Bill sought views on the support they would need to be able to take forward their Charter functions. We are currently considering the responses received.

“The existing role and work of the GTCS is a key strength of Scottish education which we can build upon.

“The establishment of the Education Workforce Council will do that by bringing registration together in a single body and improving standards and professionalism across the system.”

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