Community Ownership of Schools: some questions

Over the coming year we are going to be exploring and considering the benefits of moving our schools in East Lothian to some form of local ownership and management.

To that end we are in the final phases of organising a conference to be held late March/early April 2010.

A key part of our approach towards the development of this concept is to engage with some of the difficulties which have been thrown up in other international attempts to devolve responsibility for education to a local level.

The following questions have been derived from research and discussion.  We hope to have found answers to all of these by our deadline of December 2010.  Please note this list of question is not intended to be exhaustive – but will form the initial building blocks for the development of the concept.

Our concept is based upon a cluster of schools made up of the local primary schools and associated secondary school.  The authority would commission the local community – in the form of a Board of Governors (or the like) – to deliver an agreed set of outcomes. As much of the budget as possible would be devolved to the Board (with an associated slimming down of the centre). The management model is based upon the current system for managing further education colleges in Scotland – with the exception being that funding in their case comes direct from the Scottish Government through a funding council. It is possible that these Community Boards could eventually become Educational Trusts, and benefit from the advantages that such charitable status would bring about.

I will be returning to these questions – hopefully with answers – throughout the coming year.  If you have any other questions (or answers) which would help to shape our concept please feel free to leave them as a comment.

  1. How would such schools be managed?

  2. How would children with Additional Learning Needs be supported?

  3. Who would manage placing requests from outwith a cluster?

  4. What happens if outcomes set by the authority are not met?

  5. What happens if a Trust did not manage its finances properly?

  6. Who employs the staff?

  7. What happens to Parent Councils?

  8. How would the authority know how Trusts are performing?

  9. Who would provide support for payroll; ICT; Finance; HR; legal advice, etc?

  10. How would small units benefit from large-scale procurement contracts?

  11. How would Trusts engage with other services such as social work?

  12. Who is responsible for repairs and maintenance, cleaning, etc?

  13. Would Trusts have to follow all Council policies?

  14. How would Trusts access the Psychology Service?

  15. How would schools ensure that the quality of education they provide has been quality assured?

  16. Who deals with complaints about a school?

  17. What if the authority disagreed with some of the decisions being taken by a Trust?

  18. Who would be responsible for Health and Safety?

  19. Could Trusts vary the pay of school leaders?

  20. Who would arbitrate in the event of dispute between schools in a Trust?

  21. How much power would the Trust have in setting the curriculum?

  22. What do Headteachers manage and what do Trusts manage?

  23. How can the authority ensure that the make up of Trusts are representative of a true cross-section of each community, i.e. inclusive?

  24. How do we ensure that one particular school does not dominate the Board?

  25. What is the role of a Trust Board member?

  26. Would we need some paid members of a Trust?

  27. What if one school wanted to join another Trust?

  28. How would Trusts support the needs of children with severe and complex needs?

  29. Would Trusts be able to generate income?

  30. What happens if a child is excluded from a school on a permanent basis?

  31. Is there equity in terms of the quality of potential Board members across all of our communities?

  32. How do we minimise potential conflict between Trusts and the local authority?

  33. How would Trusts manage performance issues with members of staff?

  34. Could an authority pull a Trust back into local authority control?

  35. Would Trusts be able to choose to buy services from other local authorities or companies?

  36. What would happen if a Trust were perceived not to be “inclusive” for certain groups of children?

  37. Could Trusts extend to take control of another Trust?

  38. Who would be responsible for home to school transport?

  39. Would schools be able to work with schools from other Trusts?

  40. Would the authority still seek to develop authority wide policies?

  41. What would be the role of elected members at a local and authority wide level?

  42. How would Trust schools engage with the Scottish Government?

  43. Who would be responsible for requests for information?

  44. Would there be a business manager for each Trust?

  45. Would one Headteacher take on the role of Chief Executive/Principal?

  46. Who would appoint Trust members?

  47. Would any cluster be able to apply to become a Trust?

  48. Would there be certain criteria that a cluster must satisfy before it can become a Trust?

  49. Would a school be able to opt out of a Trust and return to local authority direct line management?

  50. How would budgets be devolved to Trusts?

  51. Would Nursery Schools belong to the Trusts?

  52. Who would liaise with unions?

  53. Would parents be able to make an appeal to direct to the Council about a matter of concern?

  54. How would issues relating to accessibility be resolved?

  55. Who would be responsible for recruitment of Headteachers and staff?

  56. What kind of support would the authority provide to support /train Trust members/

  57. Who would be responsible for liaising with major external partners such as Health; Police; Voluntary sector?

  58. What would happen to authority wide initiatives?

  59. Who would provide support to Headteachers?

  60. Who would organise Continuous Professional development for all members of staff?

3 thoughts on “Community Ownership of Schools: some questions

  1. If financial constraints were no barrier, would you still be looking to, effectively, move the ownership and management of East Lothian’s schools into private hands? Or would you continue to run the schools as they should be run, by the community’s representatives?

  2. If there were no financial constraints then there would be much less of an incentive to explore alternatives, although the 2007 OECD report on Scottish education recommended that we needed to find ways to devolve much more responsibility from local authorities to schools.

    However, we are certainly not proposing to move education into private hands.

  3. 2 comments:

    1: your list of questions above is a first step in addressing the HOW. Where is the WHAT? We need a detailed description of what it is you are trying to achieve – the specification – before developing the solution. Perhaps this has already been published(?). I think it is really important to develop a comprehensive specification document long before the planned conference so that attendees can sensibly address the HOW.

    2: Being over the age of 40, I can hardly read the questions above because the font is too small, even with my best reading glasses!

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