HC Deb 31 March 1993 vol 222 cc315-6W
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about devolved school management.

Mr. Lang

When I launched the draft guidelines for consultation in November, I said that I believed that devolving the management of schools as far as possible to the schools themselves would provide new opportunities to improve the quality of the education our children receive. I also said then that no single scheme could cover the diversity of our schools and regional differences and that that was why I was asking education authorities to devise their own schemes to suit the particular schools and the particular circumstances in their areas.

We received well over 1,000 responses during and just after the consultation period. I am grateful to all those who responded and also to those who gave of their time to attend the working group which was set up following a suggestion in the consultation paper and which met on three occasions to consider in detail the workings of the new arrangements.

Having carefully considered the responses made and the very helpful and constructive suggestions put, we have clarified and revised the guidelines in a number of important respects. In particular, we have recognised the concerns of many about the very tight timescale under which implementation is to proceed. That is why we have extended to end September 1993 the period within which education authorities are to submit draft schemes and why we have extended to 1 April 1997 the period in which devolved school management is to be introduced in special schools. Devolved management is still to be introduced in all primary and secondary schools by 1 April 1996.

We have also extended the number of categories which need not require to be devolved to school level to include, for example, home-to-school transport, school meals and milk and, importantly, provision for special educational needs. These measures will safeguard resources in these special areas which are pupil-led rather than school led. And we have also recognised the concerns of many school boards by building greater flexibility into the arrange-ments for consultation with head teachers on spending decisions and participation in arrangements for school staff appointments.

I have said all along that the arrangements for devolved school management must build on the strengths of our education system. To do so most effectively they will require to forge an even stronger partnership between education authorities, head teachers, school boards, school staff, parents and pupils. That can only be to the benefit of all.

Experience here and abroad shows conclusively that there are real benefits to be gained by devolving responsibility for day-to-day decisions down to school level. Not only is each school better able to judge its own priorities, but each education authority is also free to concentrate on the important tasks of strategic planning, quality assurance and in providing an enabling and support role for its schools. That is why I look to all sides to make the new arrangements work for the benefit of our children's education and the education of our children's children.