By Ashley Watt.
Is community ownership of schools the way forward? This is the question being put to East Lothian residents as new plans are proposed for East Lothian Council to become the first in Scotland to pioneer a scheme which aims to give schools more freedom and independence.
Head teachers have suggested that attempts to raise standards of schools are hindered as they have little control over many areas such as spending. These new plans would put in place what has been dubbed ‘Community Learning Trusts or Partnerships’. In other words, a body within local schools which would be given complete control of how the school(s) are run and the way in which money is spent to enhance learning. This would mean removing the established local authority which is currently ‘The Educational Institute of Scotland‘ and rendering them powerless in terms of contributing to decisions made about community schools.
Many local residents such as one, Jane Baxter are in favour of the proposals. She told Edinburgh Napier News, ‘I think the community learning trusts are a fantastic idea and will allow more individual attention to be given to the specific and unique needs of each school in turn. I can see how this will benefit the standards of our local schools.’
East Lothian Council are keen to promote the involvement of local people in the community, including parents in their plans. Many people are on board and have expressed that the community partnership scheme will be beneficial through increasing flexibility and control to schools.
Conversely, many concerns have been raised. One of which is that the role of head-teacher is already an extremely stressful and demanding position before adding the responsibilities of distributing funds etc. These are issues which would have been previously managed by a whole separate body. With current recruitment issues in the education system, adding extra pressure to the post will only discourage applicants and put unnecessary strain on existing head-teachers.
East Lothian Council have revealed that any changes would take at least two years to come in to action and if proposals are approved there is much more research and development required before anything is likely to be finalised.