John Swinney shelves flagship education bill

Written by Tom Freeman on 26 June 2018 in News

John Swinney accused of "the mother of all ministerial climb downs" after shelving flagship legislation

John Swinney statement - Scottish Parliament

Education Secretary John Swinney has shelved his flagship education bill after an agreement was reached with councils.

In a statement to MSPs, the Deputy First Minister said planned legislation to restructure the governance of schools would be not be introduced and instead changes would be “fast tracked” by councils.

“I have decided that I will not introduce the bill to parliament at this time,” he said.

Proposals in the bill included new powers for head teachers, the establishment of regional bodies and reform of teaching regulator the GTCS.

Swinney acknowledged there had been growing dissent, and said he had been in discussion with councils “for some months”.

“This work has not always been easy but I can announce that we have reached a clear, shared commitment,” he said.

He added: “The Scottish Government and Scotland’s local councils have reached an agreement that endorses and embraces the principles of school empowerment and provides clear commitment to a school and teacher-led education system. And it does so without the need to wait 18 months for an education bill.”

However he said he reserved the right to legislate at a later date if improvements were not made.

Green MSP Ross Greer accused Swinney of “running away from parliament” by seeking to push through changes without presenting them to MSPs, while Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott said the Education Secretary said he was holding legislation like a “sword of Damocles” over the head of local authorities.

Swinney said: “I can make more progress by collaborating with local authorities than I can through legislation.”

Scottish Conservative Liz Smith and Labour’s Iain Gray called the statement “a shambles”.

"I am frankly astonished at the content of this statement," said Smith.

Gray said teachers, parents and Swinney’s own international advisors had spent two years telling him the reforms were wrong.

"The only thing being fast-tracked here is the mother of all ministerial climb downs," he said.

Local authority umbrella body COSLA welcomed the agreement. COSLA’s spokesperson for Children and Young People, Councillor Stephen McCabe, said: “I am pleased that our concerns have been recognised by the Scottish Government and I believe that the principles we have agreed will allow us to focus on improving outcomes for children and young people.

“We welcome the commitment by Scottish Government to co-produce any framework and guidance which supports this work going forwards.

“We will of course need to ensure that additional requirements on local government are fully funded. As always, the focus for COSLA remains to ensure that the needs of children and young people are central to all decision making.”

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