East Lothian Labour politicians have joined teacher and parent representatives in condemning the Scottish Government’s proposed education reforms and urging the Education Secretary to drop his plans.
Councillor Shamin Akhtar, education and children’s services lead for Labour on East Lothian Council, who fought SNP attempts to silence the authority on the issue, has described the plans as “totally unnecessary” and “potentially hugely damaging to local schools”. She is urging Education Secretary John Swinney to drop the plans and keep education local.
County MSP, Iain Gray, who in his role as Scottish Labour’s Education and Skills Spokesperson has led the party’s criticism of the SNP’s proposals, which include setting school budgets centrally and creating regional education boards, has also called on Mr Swinney to halt his planned reforms and work urgently with Labour in the Scottish Budget to deliver the funding schools need.
Councillor Shamin Akhtar said:
“The Government has lost the focus on what really matters in education. They need to have a relentless focus on teacher workforce and ensure that there are enough of them in the education sector.
"You can’t tackle the issue of attainment and achievement without removing the barriers to learning and so it’s very disappointing that the consultation make no mention of the issue of inclusion or additional support needs for children and young people.
“Schools in East Lothian operate very well under the current governance arrangements. The SNP Government’s centralising “reforms” are trying to fix something that is not broken and are totally unnecessary.
“The idea of civil servants in Edinburgh setting budgets for schools here, imposing extra bureaucracy on Head Teachers and empowering vast regional boards to make decisions about our schools in East Lothian is wrong and potentially damaging to local schools. We want our Head Teachers to be able to continue their focus on teaching and learning and not to be turned into 'Executive Head Teachers'.
"We want Mr Swinney to drop these plans and protect East Lothian's education by keeping it local.”
Iain Gray MSP said:
“It’s increasingly obvious that Mr Swinney’s proposals for the future of schools are merely a smokescreen to try and distract their education failure over the last decade. Under the SNP, Scotland has 4,000 fewer teachers, an 18% cut in support staff and £500 million cut from local budgets in the last year alone. Rushed and wrongheaded reforms won’t make that situation better, if anything it will make it worse.
“These desperate reforms won’t help our schools – as the EIS and many other organisations have made clear in recent weeks. What will is giving schools the resources they need to deliver a world class education.
"The SNP should halt their planned reforms and work urgently with Labour in the Scottish Budget to deliver the funding our schools need.”
Teaching organisations have taken a strong stance against the Government’s proposals. In its submission to the Government’s consultation, EIS, which represents the majority of Scotland’s teachers, claimed that “the greatest barrier [to achieving excellence and equity for all] has been the imposition of austerity driven budgets and the underfunding of the Scottish education system over the past period”.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC), the national organisation for parents' groups in Scottish schools, in its response to the consultation stated "It is ironic that a document which has as one of its stated aims that parents should be more empowered, in fact excluded very many parents from participation".