1. Devolved School Management: Background and Principles
1.1 Education Reform Joint Agreement 2018
In June 2018, the Joint Agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA 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.
1.2 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 consultation 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.
1.3 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.
1.4 The Principles for Devolved School Management
The updated DSM principles, agreed by the Fair Funding Reference Group and building on and enhancing the foundations and principles of the 2012 guidance, are:
- Subsidiarity and Empowerment
- Accountability and Responsibility
- Clarity and Equity
These principles reflect the National Improvement Framework aims of excellence through raising attainment and achieving equity. The principles also fully endorse those proposed in the Fair Funding consultation:
- support excellence and equity - ensuring every child and young person has the same opportunity to succeed
- be fair - placing the needs of all children and young people at the centre
- be simple, transparent and predictable - ensuing the costs of delivering education can be easily understood and explained and that schools are able to manage and plan ahead with certainty
- deliver value for money - ensuring that every penny spent is used effectively
Subsidiarity and Empowerment
DSM must provide headteachers and schools with the autonomy and flexibility to ensure decisions are made at the most appropriate level. Local Authorities should, within their DSM scheme, provide headteachers with clear information about which areas of expenditure are delegated to them. Whilst headteachers should have flexibility in the budgets required to operate and administer a school, there are also areas of expenditure that are not generally considered suitable for devolution to schools. Further guidance is provided in Appendix B. Devolution of budget must be supportive to the headteacher and allow a headteacher to make a positive impact on outcomes for children and young people, and must suit local context.
Delegation: Decisions are made closest to the learner wherever possible and should be delegated to headteachers and schools in line with the Education Reform programme. Schools are empowered to make the decisions that affect outcomes, while being part of a collaborative learning community and the Local Authority. Decisions about education spending at Local Authority and school level are made in a collegiate and transparent way, paying due regard to wider responsibilities including GIRFEC.
Staffing: headteachers are involved in the design of recruitment processes and can design a staffing structure that best supports learning and teaching in the school, within the budget delegated to the school by the Local Authority. Headteachers must comply with employment law and other relevant legislation, and the contractual obligations and policies of their Local Authority. Local Authorities and headteachers must have regard to supporting guidance and agreements developed by SNCT and LNCT (where appropriate).
Budget: The majority of budget decisions should be made at school level. Local Authority schemes should detail specific guidance for accounting policies with regard to areas such as budget setting, budget virement and carry forward of budget underspends based on locally determined criteria.
All partners must work together in a collegiate and collaborative way, keeping the interests of children and young people front and centre.
Consultation: DSM should be designed and implemented in collaboration and consultation with stakeholders. Joint working with partners should be guided by, and support, the School Improvement Plan, Local Authority or education service, other plans, and local and national priorities.
Partnership: In an empowered system, Local Authorities, headteachers and other school staff should work collaboratively at a local, regional and national level. headteachers furthermore should ensure that the systems are in place to allow collaboration with their school community, so that decisions are taken through the principles of co-production.
Combined budgets and integrated services: Local Authority schemes should provide scope for combining budgets between schools, clusters, and other public partners (subject to any legal or contractual restraints), noting the requirements of Local Authority policies and frameworks, including, although not limited to: procurement, finance, and recruitment.
Accountability and Responsibility
Accountability is required at all levels; with the Local Authority, headteachers and delegated budget holders all being accountable and responsible within an empowered DSM scheme.
Accountability: Headteachers are the leaders of learning and teaching in their school and are senior officers of the Local Authority with operational responsibility for the service they provide. Local Authorities will continue to be democratically accountable for the Local Authority education budget and the delegation of funding to schools, while headteachers in collaboration with stakeholders will make decisions on the spending within that delegated budget. As senior officers of the Local Authority, headteachers are accountable to both their employer and to their learning community for the leadership and management of education and resources within their setting.
Quality Assurance and Review: Local Authorities should review DSM schemes every three years through peer review; in consultation and collaboration with stakeholders. Quality assurance should be built into the scheme and should particularly consider best practice from other Local Authorities. Local Authorities should also consider, as part of their ongoing self-evaluation, updating DSM schemes if relevant changes occur, for example following annual budget setting.
Support: Local Authorities should ensure that appropriate professional support functions such as business management, finance, human resources teams and administrative support are in place to provide both support and challenge to headteachers exercising their delegated duties.
Clarity and Equity
Clarity and equity is required at all levels; with the Local Authority and headteachers being clear and equitable with devolved resources.
Equitable budget allocation: Devolving resources at a local level will vary according to the characteristics of each authority. The local context, including whether an authority is based in an urban, rural or island setting will have influence regarding the budget decisions within an authority. However, for all authorities, in an empowered system, decisions regarding budget allocations should be made in consultation with stakeholders, including schools and should aim to deliver equity, ensuring that every child and young person has the same opportunity to succeed.
Clarity: Comprehensive and clear information about funding allocations detailing how local priorities and needs have determined these allocations should be made available to stakeholders. This applies to both Local Authority schemes and school decisions.
Value for money: All decisions regarding resource use at Local Authority or school level should provide best value and continuous improvement, drawing on corporate financial regulations, schemes of delegation and procurement guidance.
1.5 A Common Framework
To harmonise how local schemes are described, a framework is provided for Local Authorities to populate, containing all the essential elements of a good scheme. Local Authorities can incorporate their own scheme detail into the framework, tailoring the narrative to reflect their local context and decisions. This supports the empowerment of schools based on the Local Authority context, ensuring local democratic decisions can be applied whilst maintaining a broad consistency between schemes. This will support stakeholders undertaking benchmarking, introduce an element of common understanding for users, support shared training, and aid peer review. The framework will assist Local Authorities and their headteachers, providing increased clarity and transparency to stakeholders. The framework can be accessed on the Scottish Government website at https://www.gov.scot/policies/schools/devolved-school-management/.
1.6 Expected, Recommended and Examples
The guidelines identify which areas are defined as expected, or as recommended, for Local Authority schemes. In some cases, the guidelines note statutory requirements on Local Authorities, or legislation which Local Authorities, headteachers, or others must comply with. For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in these guidelines detracts from those legislative requirements, which must always be complied with.
It is anticipated that every Local Authority scheme will apply the areas identified as "expected" within their individual scheme. Areas identified as "recommended" enable the Local Authority to determine their own decision in meaningful consultation with stakeholders. This supports authorities implementing a scheme that is fit for purpose based on their local priorities and context. These are summarised in Appendix A: "Expected and Recommended Summary".
Local Authority examples are provided in some areas to support discussion with stakeholders at both authority and school level, reinforcing meaningful consultation and the transparency of schemes. Authorities are not expected to seek to implement each of the examples included within the guidelines, but may find it helpful to consider whether examples are relevant to their circumstances.
To support school improvement, headteachers are recommended to undertake self-evaluation drawing upon the most appropriate and current tools as self-evaluation toolkits. At date of publication these include: Education Scotland: How Good is Our School 4, Quality Indicator 1.5 Management of Resources (HGIOS4) and the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) 'The Standards for Leadership and Management' (GTCS Standards). To avoid increasing workload no additional toolkit has been created.
Local Authorities can make use of the "Expected and Recommended Summary" (Appendix A) to self-evaluate their schemes in addition to the peer review.
1.8 Additional Funding
Additional funding streams, including for example, at the time of publishing, Pupil Equity Funding (PEF), are not core funding and are not included within the traditional funding mechanisms of DSM schemes. Funding directly allocated to schools from sources other than the Local Authority should be available to headteachers to utilise as outlined in any associated conditions of the budget allocation. It is recommended that the principles of DSM (subsidiarity and empowerment; collaboration; accountability and responsibility; and clarity and equity), in addition to Local Authority policies, apply to all funding streams.
Many schools operate School Funds and Parent Council accounts; these are external to the Local Authority DSM scheme and are not included within the DSM guidelines.
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