PLANS to introduce new educational regions to help run schools are a threat to the Scottish education system, teachers' leaders have warned.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA), also criticised proposals to give more powers and resources directly to schools.

The attack comes after the SNP manifesto included plans to create "school clusters" and "educational regions" while transferring additional power directly to headteachers. It also pledges to "extend to individual schools responsibilities that currently sit solely with local authorities."

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Critics argue the move runs counter to local democracy by bypassing the role of councillors elected by the community to run services.

Speaking ahead of his speech to the SSTA annual general meeting in Crieff, Mr Searson said: "Local authorities are part of our good education system. There is a need for a sustainable education system to support schools with local authorities entrusted and responsible for schools.

"Other suggestions by the government may undermine local democratic authority control and could threaten the whole education system in Scotland."

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Mr Searson said councils were already raising attainment and ensuring young people progressed into positive destinations when they left school whilst facing financial cuts year on year and fewer and fewer staff.

He added: "If the system is not working.... you do not go and undermine and destroy it. None of these measures has been proposed by the SSTA and not to my knowledge has another teacher union campaigned for these changes."

Mr Searson went on to welcome the £750m fund to help close the attainment gap between rich and poor, but questioned why the money was being given direct to schools.

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He added: "This would appear to undermine the role of the local authority and put additional unwanted pressure, responsibility and bureaucracy on teachers and headteachers in schools."

Stephanie Primrose, education spokeswoman for council umbrella body COSLA, welcomed the support for local authorities.

She said: "Scotland has a good education system, built on the strong professionalism of teachers, school leaders and other staff.

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"However, we are not complacent and local government is committed to improving attainment and reducing the impact that poverty and deprivation has on our children’s ability to learn."

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said he wanted to work with trade unions to improve Scottish education.

He said: "As the SSTA general secretary has said, Scottish education has many strengths and, working together, I am determined we will build on these so that every child benefits.

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“I am looking forward to speaking with teachers, headteachers, parents, young people and many others across Scotland. Our partnership with SSTA and other teaching unions will continue, and I will continue to focus on what we can do to improve assessment and qualifications in our schools."

Earlier this year when questioned about the manifesto First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she did not plan to introduce English-style academies in Scotland, which see schools operate entirely independently of councils.

However, she emphasised her willingness to consider "things that we didn't previously think we would do" and accepted that some changes in education would prove controversial.

The manifesto states: "International evidence shows that when parents and communities are more involved with schools, children's attainment improves so we will review school governance with a view to ensuring that parents, families and communities play a bigger role.

"We will extend to individual schools responsibilities that sit solely with local authorities, allocate more resources directly to headteachers and enable them to take decisions based on local circumstances. We will encourage school clusters and create new educational regions to decentralise management and support."

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said that regional boards could have a valuable role to play in helping headteachers to work together, particularly in council areas which controlled relatively few schools. However, he made clear that his union would fight any plans to diminish the role of councils in the delivery of education.

He said: "We think there is a crucial role for local authorities in terms of localism and accountability. If we are looking at any structures around regional boards then they should involve local authorities, it shouldn’t be a move towards the centre but a better way of supporting schools and helping them to work together.