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Gremista winter times 2018 19

Parliament committee hears of need to shield head teachers

| Written by Peter Johnson

Chairman of the council's education and families committee Gorge Smith Chairman of the council's education and families committee Gorge Smith HEAD teachers must not be swamped by added responsibilities following an overhaul of teaching to be outlined in the forthcoming Scottish education bill.

That was the message from local councillors and education pros in an informal 45 minute long session with five members of the Scottish Parliament education committee in Lerwick on Monday evening.

Speaking later, chairman of Shetland Islands Council education and families committee George Smith said that while he was in broad agreement with the aim of empowering schools and head teachers, heads must not be overwhelmed by admin.

Smith said: "In terms of principles we would absolutely agree with that [giving head teachers more powers] but in the education bill there must be cognisance of their practical application.

"Teaching heads could face an additional burden looking after finances, staffing and all the rest of it. But we agree with it in thinking of devolving decision making to where it is most appropriate."

He said that the need for new benchmarks for pupil equity funding had also been pressed on the committee members.

At present, this funding to help close the "attainment gap" is provided on the basis of how many pupils are eligible for free meals in a school. This benchmark meant that three schools in Shetland received no equity funding, and £220,000 was distributed among the rest.

The issue was raised again at Tuesday's education and families committee, where councillor Robbie MacGregor said that the council was "pushing at an open door" as the Scottish government was willing to consider other benchmarks.

Mr Smith also took issue with the decision to award the money to individual schools and said that it could have been "used more effectively" owing to economies of scale, had it gone to the local authority.

Children's services director Helen Budge said her department was looking at five indicators of rural poverty and deprivation through lack of access to amenities and that there was a mismatch of 8,000 between school meal claims and those falling into the child poverty bracket in the area of the "Northern Alliance" which includes Shetland.

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