JOHN Swinney has signalled an ever-decreasing role for local authorities in education and that schools and parents will be put in charge of key teaching decisions.

Speaking yesterday ahead of the SNP’s governance review launch on Tuesday, the Education Secretary said he wanted to “decentralise management” and give extra clout to headteachers.

Empowering schools would be a key part of the government strategy to close the academic attainment gap between rich and poor pupils, he said.

There would be a "presumption that decision-making must rest with schools" and the governance review would consult on the best way of delivering the change.

Swinney, who is also Deputy First Minister, said: “Our relentless focus will be on how we can build on the many strengths in Scottish education to close the attainment gap and deliver excellence and equity in our schools.

“It will also consider how we can involve parents and the wider community better in the life of schools, because we know that there is strong global evidence that greater parental and community involvement promotes children’s attainment and achievement.”

Councils, who spend 40 per cent of their budgets on education, have warned Swinney to "proceed with caution" on the reforms.

Local authorities are also furious about Swinney's plan to find an extra £100m a year for closing the attainment gap by clawing back council tax receipts.

Scottish Labour attacked SNP ministers for cutting higher education funding. Citing work by Holyrood’s independent information centre, Labour said revenue spending on higher education was now less in real terms than when the SNP entered power in 2007.

Education spokesperson Iain Gray said: “Time and again the SNP tell us that education is their top priority, only for the reality of their record to tell us the opposite.

“Scotland’s universities should be the envy of the world and the engines of long term growth in our economy but they have faced cuts ever since the SNP came to power.

He added: “Labour would protect the education budget and the funding for our universities using the new tax powers of our Scottish Parliament and will continue to make that case."