Swinney faces challenge as city council staff unite to block school cash reform

Classroom funding is facing a significant challenge
Classroom funding is facing a significant challenge
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Council chiefs and teachers’ leaders have joined forces to challenge Education Secretary John Swinney’s plans for reform in Scotland’s schools.

David O’Neill, president of local government body Cosla, warned Scottish Government plans to hand £100 million-a-year extra cash raised by council-tax reforms straight to schools “smashes” the link between local taxation and local services.

Teaching unions raised concerns about the timetable for changes outlined in the government’s education delivery plan, with Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, stating: “It’s more important that we get this right rather than simply do it quickly. They are very ambitious timescales that have been set out.”

Mr Swinney has set out plans for legislation to be brought in to shift responsibility for raising standards from education authorities to schools.

In addition, his education delivery plan sets out to create “new school clusters and new educational regions”.

Mr Flanagan said: “It would be an absolute folly to look at any kind of structural reorganisation of education at a time of reduced resources, because it will simply be distracting attention from what is important, which is how you support schools and teachers in the classroom.”

He made the comments after Cosla held an extraordinary meeting of its education executive group in Edinburgh, with teachers’ unions and the bodies that represent senior council officials also present.

SNP ministers are proposing that from 2017-18 the additional £100m will go directly to head teachers to help them improve attainment, with the amount each school receives to be linked to the number of youngsters in receipt of free school meals.

Mr O’Neill said it had been a “Scottish tradition for generations” that money raised by local authorities from council tax was spent in that region, describing that as a “clear and honourable link”.

The Cosla president said: “The Scottish Government will destroy that link with their plans to use council tax money for a national policy.

“Head teachers are valued and trusted public servants but they are not elected, no-one votes for a headteacher and nor should they.

“Councillors stand for election and should be held responsible for taxes raised and money spent in the area.”