New Regional Improvement Collaboratives to be inspired by northern councils, says Swinney

Written by Tom Freeman on 19 June 2017 in News

Northern Alliance councils will be exemplar for new regional education bodies, says Education Secretary

Rural School on Skye - Jon Howard

Councils from the Highlands and Islands that have worked together to support education services will be a model for the Scottish Government’s new Regional Improvement Collaboratives, Education Secretary John Swinney has said.

The Northern Alliance, which comprises seven northern and island local authorities, will be involved in building the new model, which was announced by the Deputy First Minister last week.

As a result of the school governance review, councils will still act as employers and retain control of the number and location of schools, provide support services, and hire headteachers, while the new regional structure will act as a platform for the sharing of skills and knowledge, he said.


The plans were criticised by opposition MSPs and councils umbrella body COSLA for handing more control to ministers, as the regional bodies will operate under government-approved directors.

The Scottish Government has now awarded the Northern Alliance £385,000 to develop its joint working, including £225,000 for joint literacy and numeracy attainment projects.

Swinney said the Northern Alliance, which includes Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles councils, had created a “brilliant example” of working together,

“We will ensure the new Regional Improvement Collaboratives learn from the Northern Alliance and other initiatives that boost collaboration,” he said.

COSLA said the proposals “eroded” local democratic accountability.

A spokesman said: “The Scottish system has worked tirelessly towards a co-ordinated approach – health, social work, the third sector and others rally around a child and provide them with the help both they and their family need. Schools are only one facet of this. 

“If the Scottish Government continue down this path of isolating education, the whole system approach is lost and it is the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in our society who will suffer as a result.”

Led by a government-appointed regional director, the new collaboratives will deliver “an annual regional plan” and “facilitate collaborative working across the region”, according to the school governance documentNext Steps - Empowering Our Teachers, Parents and Communities to Deliver Excellence and Equity for Our Children.



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