Commission on School Reform Publishes Response to Scottish Government Consultation

The Centre for Scottish Public Policy is pleased to share the following submission by the Commission on School Reform to the Scottish Government’s recent consultation on the governance of Scotland’s schools.

The Commission was set up in November 2011 by the think tanks Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy to consider whether the school system in Scotland was meeting the present and future needs of young people and to try and reach a consensus about specific recommendations on areas for improvement or that require further enquiry. In March 2013 the Commission produced the report “By Diverse Means: Improving Scottish Education”, which included 37 recommendations and key preconditions for successful change.

The CSPP is delighted to be involved in this initiative, and would like to thank Commission Chair Keir Bloomer, CSPP Board Member Lesley Sutherland, and all other colleagues involved for their hard work on this project.

Below is the Commission’s press release regarding its submission:


Response to Government consultation calls for clusters

The Commission on School Reform, chaired by former Director of Education Keir Bloomer, has published its response to the Scottish Government's consultation Empowering Teachers, Parents and Communities.

The Commission, set up by the think tanks the Centre for Scottish Public Policy and Reform Scotland, has an extensive membership of experts (see full list in notes to editors).

The full response can be read here.

In addition to its answers to each of the 17 questions, the response made five key observations:

  1. The Commission welcomes proposals to give schools, teachers, parents and other stakeholders greater autonomy, believing that it will lead to higher standards and greater diversity within the system
  2. The Commission recommends a position where all decisions affecting the pupil experience should be taken at school level, with very few deviations from that norm.
  3. The Commission notes that the Government's summary of the current governance arrangements presented a monolithic system with a single governance model. However this neglects important exceptions to that rule, including Jordanhill School, an exceptionally successful publicly-funded school outwith local authority control, and other types of publicly-funded pluralist schools including Roman Catholic schools and others.
  4. The Commission notes that the Government's commitment to pass more power to schools would fundamentally alter the relationship between schools and local authorities, with power moving both towards schools and towards central government, with a significant impact on local democracy. That change will require a new vision for the role of local government.
  5. The Commission's paper advocates that change can and should be evolutionary rather than taking place simultaneously at every school in the country. Change should take place only when the ground has been well-prepared and need not take place at the same pace or even in the same form throughout the country.

Commenting, Chair of the Commission on School Reform, Reform Scotland Advisory Board Member and former Director of Education Keir Bloomer said:

"The current arrangements for running our schools are sufficient to sustain a good education service, but not an excellent one. If we truly want to excel, and to close the opportunity gap for the 20% of Scottish young people let down by the system, it needs transformational change.

"As the OECD has recognised, there is an urgent need to strengthen the intermediate tier of governance, so that schools are better supported. The best basis for doing this is to give more decision-making powers to schools and to encourage them to collaborate with each other.

"The Commission believes there is a significant role to be played by the creation of school clusters, overseen by a Board of Trustees placing significant new expertise at schools' disposal. This would be a truly Scottish solution to our Scottish problem.

"It is most likely that such clusters would be formed around a secondary school and its associated catchment-area primary schools, and the Commission would wish to see the clusters empowered to remove the current limitations on schools' ability to control staffing budgets and freedom to appoint staff of their choice."



1. The full response can be read here

2. The Commission on School Reform comprises of:

- Keir Bloomer (Chair): Education Consultant and former Director of Education
- Rowena Arshad: Head of Moray House School of Education
- Sarah Atkin: Currently works in a secondary school, formerly a Parent Council Chair and researcher for education conferences. Labour Party member
- John Barnett: Business consultant and former Parent Council Chairman
- Jamie Cooke: Head of RSA Scotland
- Jim Goodall: Former Head of Education and Community Services at Clackmannanshire Council
- Frank Lennon: Former Head of Dunblane High School
- Judith McClure: Convener of Scotland-China Education Network and former headteacher
- Cllr Paul McLennan: SNP Councillor in East Lothian
- Morag Pendry: Education Development Manager at the Co-operative Education Trust Scotland
- Louise Stevenson: Performance Adviser with Inspiring Scotland’s 14-19 Programme
- Lesley Sutherland: Board member, the Centre for Scottish Public Policy

3. Media: Message Matters (Peter Duncan, 07740 469 949 or [email protected])

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