Schools (Budget Management)

General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 9th December 2004.

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Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour 2:00 pm, 9th December 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what assistance is being given to head teachers to help them to manage school budgets more effectively. (S2O-4496)

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

We are extending devolved school management to assist head teachers in managing their schools. All teachers, including head teachers, are required to undertake continuing professional development activities each year to develop appropriate new skills. Those could include support for devolved schools management.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

The minister might be interested in a development at Queen Anne High School in my constituency, where a business manager and a pupil support manager have been appointed. Among other things, the appointments relieve the rector of responsibility for day-to-day management of the school budget, allowing him—or her, in other establishments—to concentrate on key educational matters. Does the minister agree that the model would be worth considering in other education authorities?

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I would be happy to receive any details that Scott Barrie wants to provide, as the approach that he has described sounds interesting. It is precisely the sort of approach that is being made possible by the extra resources that the Executive is investing in Scottish education, especially by way of extra support staff to allow the release of management and teaching time. The development to which the member refers sounds like a good example of the flexibility that we want to offer schools by extending devolved school management, not just of cash but of the staffing structures that head teachers want to construct. I would be happy to hear more about the experience at Queen Anne High School and to share it with other schools in Scotland.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

Does the minister agree that the principle of devolved school management is sound and that head teachers should be given the authority to exclude persistently violent and disruptive pupils, not only immediately from classes, where appropriate, but over a prolonged period, if necessary?

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I know that Lord James Douglas-Hamilton tries to paint a picture of Scottish schools as being in total chaos, with kids slugging teachers every few seconds of the day, but I say with respect that that is not the case. I have made it clear that, wherever violent incidents take place, I will not sit in Edinburgh second-guessing what a head teacher must do. If they need to put a pupil out of the school, that is their decision and they should do so. Head teachers have my support in excluding pupils in the very difficult circumstances that occasionally arise.

Before excluding a young person from a school on a long-term or permanent basis, we must consider that young person's interests, as well as the interests of the whole school community. That is why such decisions are taken in conjunction with education managers who are involved with a range of schools and who seek first and foremost to find other schools for young people to attend, rather than to exclude them from the education system as a whole. Head teachers have the right to exclude pupils the moment that they think it is necessary. Over time, we must balance those actions with what is in the best interests of the pupils concerned, as well as the school.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Question 8 has been withdrawn.