Two weeks before the school summer holidays started the Scottish Government announced the “Fairer Funding Consultation”. The purpose of the consultation was to seek views on how schools are currently funded and how they could in future be funded through a national formula.
As six weeks of the school holidays were lost to parents, carers and teachers who wouldn’t have been able to respond, East Lothian Council, with the support of local Councils across Scotland, asked the Scottish Government to extend the consultation. Our request was refused.
Shamin Akhtar, Labour Education Convenor of East Lothian Council, said:
“East Lothian Labour will always put our schools first. We have made our views clear in our response. We oppose centralising our school budgets and turning our headteachers into managers is not the way forward.
“In this consultation the SNP Scottish Government have failed to look at the real issue, which is that funding to East Lothian Council year on year has been cut. Since 2010/11, funding to Councils has been cut by 11% in real terms.
“On top of that it is nothing but shocking that we are now seeing proposals for education being introduced with no level of scrutiny or accountability from the Scottish Parliament.”
Iain Gray MSP said:
“I have led Labour’s opposition to the SNP Government’s school governance plans at Holyrood. They fail to get to the heart of the problem facing Scottish education, which is the year on year budget cuts imposed by the SNP.
“Introducing a national funding formula for schools is simply illogical. How can civil servants in Edinburgh know the needs of vastly different local schools in a county like East Lothian? On one hand we have Dunbar Primary, one of the largest primaries in Europe, and on the other several tiny rural schools with only a handful of pupils.
“These desperate reforms won’t help our schools -; as the EIS and many other organisations have made clear. It is time for John Swinney to give schools the resources they need to deliver a world class education.”
East Lothian Council Labour Group has responded to the consultation. The Group’s key points were:
Opposition to centralising school budgets
Budgets for local schools in East Lothian should be set locally by the local authority who best know their schools, their needs and the local community.
We oppose any measures that will see budgets set for our schools centrally without knowledge of the needs of the pupils, size of the school, rurality, deprivation, or the local demographics.
We do not believe that a national funding formula can be found that will adequately reflect the needs of our schools or appropriately provide a fix for an area that is so complex. Within a national funding formula if a dispute arises about the allocation of resources, what route will a headteacher, Parent Councils or parents have to raise their concerns when national government has already made the decision?
The current problem that we face in education is the lack of funding from the Scottish Government grant. Funding from the grant goes directly to schools. The grant has been cut by 11% in real terms since 2010/11 (An overview of local government in Scotland 2016, Audit Scotland)
Lack of scrutiny & accountability
We have concern over consultations, which the Scottish Government are carrying out on education, and the results then have gone through no scrutiny.
The views of the people who have responded then being ignored, that includes their own International advisors.
We would also strongly urge that the results of the Education Governance consultation and the proposals that are already being implemented should be subject to clear lines of accountability and scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee.
Don’t turn our headteachers into business managers
We have serious concerns if the role of our headteachers was to see a shift to becoming “Executive Headteachers” with a more business manager role as we see in England. If this shift were to take place then we would oppose it on the principle that it would have nothing but a detrimental effect on our children and young people and their learning experience. We believe that the role of headteachers should be focused on providing the leadership within their school to promote the best learning and teaching within the classroom.