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November 18, 2015

Time for parent power?

The vast majority (95%) of Scottish children are educated by the country’s comprehensive school system. While some schools perform better than others for a variety of reasons, all schools (apart for the private ones) operate under the same rules, follow the same curriculum and work towards the same system of assessment. Local authorities run these schools and always have. In England it’s quite different and some wonder why Scotland shouldn’t have more variety. The Hometown Foundation makes the case for parent-run schools – out with Council control.


Evening Times

PARENTS across Scotland should be given the right to set up community schools outside council control, according to a new charitable trust.

The Hometown Foundation said recent international comparisons showed Scottish education was no longer a world leader and called for alternative ways of delivering it.

The Scottish Government already funds several schools which are not run by local authorities including Jordanhill, in the west end of Glasgow, and a number of specialist schools.

However, the move would be highly controversial because a previous attempt to allow schools to opt-out by the Conservatives was seen as an attempt to undermine the power of councils.

Free schools and academies south of the Border have also proved unpopular with teaching unions who argue they are divisive and a waste of money.

The issue has come to the fore because First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is currently looking at proposals for a community school drawn up by families from East Dunbartonshire after the council decided to close St Joseph’s Primary School, in Milngavie, last year.

Bill Nicol, director of the Hometown Foundation, who is helping St Joseph’s parents prepare a business case, said the model could apply equally to communities across Scotland.

He said: “Serious concerns about Scottish educational standards are now being expressed by employers and academics as well as worried parents and these concerns must be addressed.

“A significant part of Scottish education’s problems relate to areas of responsibility. At present, direct responsibility for raising standards and improving education does not reside with the school or the headteacher.

“Funds are passed from the Scottish Government to local authorities to provide education and raise standards yet coucnils are not present at the “coal face” and cannot be made fully accountable. This adds bureaucracy and cost as well as….. conflict over fundamental issues.”

Mr Nicol said there was “clear and growing evidence” autonomous schools delivered a range of benefits from giving headteachers greater control to bringing parents, teachers and the local community closer together.

He added: “This makes the provision of education much more of a combined effort.”

Educationalist Keir Bloomer backed the call for change stating: “Greater school autonomy is a pre-requisite for improvement.”

However, Stephanie Primrose, education spokesperson for council umbrella body Cosla, said council schools had proved very successful.

She said: “Education is good with standards rising, exam results improving and more of our young people than ever before going into a positive destination.  

“Comprehensive education has stood the test of time and it is vital that we do not throw the door open to things that will do more harm than good.”

The Hometown Foundation is a registered charity based in Lanarkshire and backed by local businesses.