1. Education Reform Joint Agreement 2018
In June 2018, the Joint Agreement established the principles that;
- Effective system-wide improvement requires strong leadership, collaborative working and clarity of purpose at all layers of the system – school, local, regional and national
- Headteachers are the leaders of learning and teaching in their school. They are senior officers of the Local Authority and have operational responsibility for the service they provide, therefore the majority of decisions should be made at school level
- Schools are empowered to make the decisions that most affect their children and young people's outcomes, while being part of a collaborative learning community, the Local Authority and working with others
- Empowered schools require both strong and distributive leadership, working in partnership with pupils, parents, staff and the wider community
- The principle of headteacher empowerment will be applied consistently across Scotland
- Local Authorities' duty to provide education for children and young people means that they must be able to intervene in decisions made by headteachers where statutory, financial, or contractual obligations would be breached
- Local Authorities and their headteachers should have a mutually respectful and supportive relationship, with clear processes in place to minimise the need for such intervention
- Decisions by all parties should reflect mutually supportive and respectful relationships.
The Joint Agreement advises that through the Headteachers Charter, Local Authorities are to empower headteachers in areas of curriculum, improvement, staffing and funding. Regarding funding, it defines this further:
- Local Authorities will continue to be responsible for the Local Authority education budget and the delegation of funding to schools. Headteachers will make decisions on the spending within that delegated budget.
- Decisions about education spending at Local Authority and school level are made in a collegiate and transparent way paying due regard to Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) and Local Authorities' role as Corporate Parents.
- Local Authorities have regard to updated statutory guidance setting out a clear national framework for the delegation of funding to schools. This guidance is being co-produced through the Fair Funding Reference Group.
The Fair Funding Reference Group formed the Fair Funding Working Group to provide the detailed and practical insight necessary to deliver this guidance.
2. Aims of Empowerment of Funding
An empowered system is built on mutual trust, cooperation, transparency and highly effective communication. In an empowered system, headteachers, schools and their Local Authorities are partners, each contributing and supporting each other and respecting the different role each plays.
Local Authorities add value by enabling key decisions to be made by those who are closest to the educational experience of children and young people and who best understand the particular context of the learning community. Decision making about funding that affects the school should sit, therefore, at school level unless there is a compelling reason for this not to be the case. The headteacher is accountable and responsible for decisions, that should be made in partnership with pupils, parents, staff and the wider community.
In an empowered school, decisions are based on local circumstances, delivering the highest impact on the learning experience of children and young people, and achieving the best outcomes for learners. Empowered schools require both strong and distributive leadership, again working in partnership with pupils, parents, staff and the wider community. An empowered school should have established systems and mechanisms which ensure that decisions are made in collaboration with stakeholders and which lead to better outcomes for children and young people.
Headteachers are expected to be able to manage a fair, equitable and transparent devolved budget that meets the needs and priorities of the school and local community. As senior officers of the local authority, responsible for the leadership and management of the service provided to children and young people and their families, headteachers are accountable to both their employer and to their learning community for the leadership and management of education and resources within their settings.
Headteachers, whilst being part of a collaborative community, the Local Authority and working with others, are accountable for the resources within their delegated budget responsibility.
These guidelines recognise that in relation to DSM the functions and roles undertaken within an empowered school system are not restricted to headteachers. Although the role of headteacher is identified throughout, shared and distributed leadership means that other staff members or groups may undertake an area or aspect of DSM. An empowered school system means that all teachers are empowered and have meaningful input to decisions about school funding. The guidelines support distributed leadership, collaboration and consultation whilst recognising that ultimately the accountability and responsibility will reside with the headteacher as the leader of their school, supported by the Local Authority.
3. A Headteachers' Charter for School Empowerment
The Headteachers' Charter advises that in an empowered system, headteachers should lead learning communities to determine the most appropriate approach in the areas of leading learning and teaching, empowering the learning community and making best use of the school's resources.
In relation to making best use of the school's resources, headteachers are required to:
- Manage a delegated budget in a fair, equitable and transparent way, supported by the Local Authority and a fair, transparent and equitable local Devolved School Management Scheme.
- Deploy the school's budget in accordance with best value principles and Local Authority procurement arrangements, with appropriate support and guidance from their Local Authority.
- Play an active role in designing and reviewing recruitment and staffing approaches, both for their own school(s) and for the wider Authority.
- Be empowered to design a staffing structure which best supports the school's curriculum and leadership requirements, working within their delegated staffing budget and supported by their Local Authority and Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) / Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers (LNCT) agreements and guidance.
- Be integral to the appointment of staff in accordance with the best interests of children and young people, and work in partnership with the Local Authority to ensure good practice in recruitment and appointments, in line with SNCT/LNCT agreements and guidance.
- Work in partnership with the Local Authority, and within clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, to ensure a highly professional school team is built and sustained to meet the needs of the learning community.