School-Based Management 5: Self-Governing Schools Revisited

I’ve been carrying out some further research into school-based management and came across the Self-Governing Schools etc. (Scotland) Act 1989 It’s interesting to read this with a different eye nearly 20 years on from when it first came into being. 

When the concept was first mooted it was driven by a Conservative Government’s agenda to break the control of Local Authorities.  Michael Forsyth, the last Conservative Scottish Secretary of State,  pushed through the legislation but only three schools applied for and attained self-governing status (one other school had applied but only to prevent closure).  The only remaining self-governing school in Scotland – which is funded directly from the Scottish Government is Jordanhill School.

Some key points from the Act include:

  1.  “the duty of the education authority to maintain or manage the school, or to provide school education in the school, or to keep it efficient, shall cease.”
  2. A self-governing school is governed by a board of management  comprising parents, staff, appointed members (by the Board) and the head teacher.
  3. Duties of the Board of Management include managing the school, all contract arrangments with staff and the ability to raise funds

As I read through the Act I began to wonder if there might be some potential for a scheme which took some of the legislative elements of the Self-Governing Schools Act but involved the local authority as the commissioning agent, in effect the authority would strike a concordat with the school. The major shift from how it was developed in 1989 would be that the scheme would be developed as a partnership between the school, the local authority and the government – as opposed to one which  tried to sideline one of the key members of that triumvirate.

I think the next stage in my research will be to contact Jordanhill School and try to find out more about how it works in practice, e.g.

  1.  How do the numbers stack up? i.e. is it cost effective?
  2. Jordanhill is in a very middle class area – would such a scheme succeed in a less affluent area?
  3. How do they access support services?
  4. How do staff feel about it?
  5. How do they engage in the quality improvement process?
  6. How do they meet the needs of children with additional support needs?

David Hartley provides a useful critique of self-governing schools in Scotland within “A Socially Critical View of the Self-Managing School” Edited by John Smyth, 1993