SCHOOLS should be given powers over all decisions about how they are run, and the role of quangos such as Education Scotland diminished, according to radical proposals from an education think tank.

The Commission on School Reform’s proposals would mean a drastic reduction in the powers of local authorities to run education, and empower headteachers, while giving parents and even senior pupils a say in the day-to-day running of schools.

The teachers' union EIS dismissed a claim that giving schools control over budgets and management would help tackle the attainment gap, saying austerity budgets and underfunding were the greatest barrier to educational equality in the Scottish system.

Consultant Keir Bloomer, a former director of education at Clackmannanshire Council, chaired the commission on behalf of Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy.

He said its report supported Scottish Government plans to reform the way schools are managed, but said they would fail unless vested interests were challenged.

"Scottish education has prided itself on being run by consensus, but that consensus has been one of elites, with their own interests - such as councils, the national agencies and teachers' unions," he said. "The effect is to exclude other voices, including those of ordinary teachers, parents and others who have a more legitimate stake."

Mr Bloomer, added "If we truly want to excel, and to close the opportunity gap for the 20% of Scottish young people let down by the system, it needs transformational change."

The Commission describes the need for change as urgent, with recent PISA international benchmarking showing Scotland lagging behind other European countries, and Government statistics showing pupils failing to meet targets on literacy and numeracy. These demonstrated the importance and urgency of the situation: "The inescapable conclusion is that there are serious problems in the way that Scottish education is run," the report says.

The Commission says schools should be managed in around 350 clusters of secondary schools, feeder primaries and some nurseries, making it easier to recruit "outstanding" leaders.

"Clusters would have the resources to engage business managers and other support staff," it adds.

Instead of setting up more public agencies to run the education regions proposed by ministers, schools should be able to get the support they need from whatever sources are most appropriate, it says - the authors add: "The private sector also has a useful role to play."

The Commission also claims headteachers should have more say over staff appointments and the power to remove those who are not performing. "Empowering schools is the single most effective way of challenging the current culture of conformity and compliance in Scottish education, and encouraging in its place a culture of innovation and improvement." it says.

But it says such radical change calls into question the very nature of local councils. "If this is not to be seen as simply a further stage in the erosion of local democracy, it is [an] opportune time for looking more broadly at the functions of councils"

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said:

“This government has an unwavering focus on improving Scotland’s education system to make it world-class.

“Our comprehensive programme of reform is based firmly on the independent findings of the 2015 OECD review of Scottish education which recommended, among other things, putting schools and communities at the heart of the education system. That is why we are reviewing school governance, and we will carefully consider all submissions to our consultation."