THE leader of Scotland’s headteachers has vowed to “strongly oppose” SNP plans to transfer power from councils to schools – unless they are given more funding.
The SNP manifesto, launched last week, introduced plans to loosen councils’ tight grip on the delivery of education.
Under the plans, ministers want to allocate more resources directly to headteachers.
But the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) has criticised the announcement, saying that the additional responsibility would be “another burden”.
According to Greg Dempster, general secretary of the AHDS, an average primary headteacher works 54.5 hours per week when they are contracted to work 35.
He said any additional responsibility would need to come with additional funding for more staff.
“Giving school leaders additional responsibility just now without other change would be something the vast majority would be hugely opposed to,” he said.
“They have a lot of burdens already. If they get control of the purse strings but the purse remains too small, that’s just a different set of burdens on school leaders.”
Mr Dempster believes the current “big burden” on heads is the supply crisis – meaning leaders are frequently spending time covering classes instead of leading schools.
Secondary headteachers, meanwhile, have “no appetite at all for anything that smacks of the academies system south of the border”, according to Jim Thewliss, the general secretary of School Leaders Scotland.
There is also the suggestion that the SNP’s proposals mean a significant shift in education is on the way.
Bruce Robertson, a former education director who has advised the Scottish government on education policy, speculated that the SNP could be planning to remove education from local authority control altogether.
He said: “Whatever happens, this signals a major shift in the role of local government in education.”
Rory Mair, the recently retired chief of the council umbrella body Cosla, called the proposals “preposterous” and accused the SNP of trying to strip local government of its power.
He said: “The damaging idiocy of the council tax freeze has seen national government dictate how much money local authorities can raise.
“The pledge to maintain teacher numbers has seen the government set out what the money must be spent on.
“Now the SNP is proposing to direct even more local government resource through its pledge to allocate more money to headteachers – officers that they don’t even employ.
“These proposals are preposterous and cannot work. Our best performing students already attend the same schools as those who perform less well.
“It is therefore unlikely that the answer to closing the attainment gap lies solely or mostly in schools.”
He added: “We know that student outcomes are most influenced by family income and support, job availability and community resilience.
“There is a need to invest in such support, but money would be directed to heads, who deliver little or none of this, and away from the councils that do.”
A spokesman for the SNP said that the issue would be discussed with local authorities.
He said: “We want to empower teachers, parents and local communities to drive improvements in their schools – recognising that the best schools aren’t just those with the best teachers and headteachers, but those that have an active parent body and local community involved in the life of the school.”