At the Glasgow City Council Executive Committee last week, Greens ensured proper local scrutiny of proposals for a region-level collaborative structure to support Education Improvement. These proposals had not arisen from within Glasgow City Council – the new Council has not established an education committee as yet. The proposals came from the City Region Cabinet, a collective made up of the leaders of eight local authorities that includes Glasgow. The City Region has an economic development remit around the City Deal.
Our main concern was to ensure that any such regional collaboration should arise from identified need within Glasgow City Council. With the Green amendment having been passed, this can now happen. The proposal will be subject to local scrutiny and detailed consideration by councillors in the appropriate context of the new education committee rather than being rushed through at Executive level.
We had other concerns too. Firstly, that the proposals placed Education Improvement as a sub-category of economic development. Education clearly has a fundamental role as a driver of economic development, and we recognise developing workforce skills and training as a core element of the City Region’s work. However, skills and training is only part of education. Education is a distinct public good, valuable in its own right, with children and young people, not economics, at its centre. This should not need saying.
We also think it is important for Glasgow City Council to sustain the progress made in recognising that the attainment gap cannot be addressed through education alone, and the role of cross-departmental work in supporting children and families dealing with the challenges of disadvantage. The proposed model sites Educational Improvement at the regional level – this is out of sync with the broad range of children’s services.
We have made clear our agreement that it is absolutely appropriate and desirable to explore where and how regional collaboration may give rise to better outcomes and that this should be a distinct work stream for the education committee. But this exploration must start from the Council level where democratic and managerial accountability and scrutiny structures are in place already and resources don’t need to be diverted into inventing new ones.
It should be noted that Education Improvement services are a long established function within Glasgow City Council but have been subject to very significant cuts over recent years. As the Greens have argued repeatedly, it is increased and enhanced staffing and support that is needed in education, not new structures. This was also the conclusion of Scottish Government’s own report on its own public consultation about education governance – although unfortunately, as we know, they have roundly ignored their own findings.