Improvement plan to give Falkirk pupils a fighting chance

Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Falkirk Council director of childrens services Robert Naylor
Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Falkirk Council director of childrens services Robert Naylor

A £400,000 funding boost will go towards improving education opportunities for school pupils in the Falkirk area.

At a meeting of the council’s education executive on Tuesday, members discussed the progress of the Forth Valley and West Lothian Improvement Collaborative and the Scottish Government’s empowering schools agenda.

The collaborative, made up of Falkirk, Stirling, Clackmannanshire and West Lothian councils, aims to ensure every child achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy and every child has the same opportunity to succeed.

Members heard the collaborative would soon be receiving £400,000 of funding from the Scottish Government to help them achieve these aims.

Falkirk Council director of children’s services Robert Naylor is also the lead officer of the Forth Valley and West Lothian Improvement Collaborative.

He said: “There is a massive change taking place across the whole arena of children’s services.”

Councillor David Alexander said: “It’s worth remembering this is all about raising standards and raising life chances, particularly for those youngsters within the care system.”

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “This approach will help our children achieve all these life choices. Some of the teachers I have been speaking to are very enthused about this. We have already seen some of the benefits coming through.”

The progress of Forth Valley and West Lothian Improvement Collaborative was not universally praised at Falkirk Council’s education executive.

There were concerns decision making powers on education were being wrestled away from the local authority.

Councillor Joan Coombes said: “This is a shocking centralisation. Given what has happened with Police Scotland and the Fire and Rescue Service I fear things are being taken away from local control.”

Education executive convener Dennis Goldie shared this view, saying: “I do fear there would be a possibility here we could lose control of education completely.”

Falkirk Council stated it will try to follow the Scottish Government’s school empowerment agenda even though there is no legal requirement to do so.

Deputy First Minister and education secretary John Swinney recently announced he was putting the Education (Scotland) Bill on hold.

In a letter to Falkirk Council, Mr Swinney stated: “I have decided to pursue an approach to reform based on consensus building and collaboration with partners. I will not be introducing the Education (Scotland) Bill to Parliament at this time.

“However, if sufficient progress is not made across the system in implementing the roadmap agreed with local government, I will introduce the Education(Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament.”

Councillor Adanna McCue said: “He has put the Bill on hold because he has seen evidence of good work. He is seeing good results and moving forward with that. At the end of the day targets have to be met and if he sees the collaborative is not being positive he will step in.

“There is nothing in his letter to suggest it’s a power grab. There is no interest in taking education out of the control of the council. It’s something to enhance the education of all our children.

“This is a positive move – we have one of the top ministers in our country looking at setting up scrutiny between other collaborative.”