The response says that the White Paper's commitments - to a fully inclusive school system offering opportunity for all, to placing young people at the centre of development, to ensuring that schools are the focus of the community and to achieving the highest standards - are fully in line with local government's commitment to young people.
Local government will continue to seek improvement and foster excellence in Scottish education and COSLA's response highlights a number of areas where progress or further debate is sought.
Given the pivotal role of councils and the range of expertise they possess, local government must be fully involved and consulted on any proposals for change. Only if ownership of change is shared can it be effective.
The response identifies the following nine main areas for further action:
* COSLA believes that where plans are required from local government by central government they should be integral to the community planning process and consistent with best value. The current range of plans which local authorities are required to produce is not compatible with this framework. COSLA therefore seeks an urgent review of the current planning overload on local authorities with a view to reducing the burden and freeing up resources which have otherwise to be diverted from front line services. The review should include the removal of the bidding process inherent in the Excellence Fund and its replacement by a mechanism whereby joint priorities are agreed between the government and COSLA following which councils are given the freedom and discretion to find the best means of achieving those objectives.
* There should be a joint review with the government of qualifications in early years and childcare. Clarification and unequivocal guidance from the government is also sought regarding local authorities' role in following up HM Inspections in private nurseries
* There should be an urgent joint review of the 5-14 curriculum arrangements to address, amongst other things, various issues around the transition from primary to secondary school including the need for a greater focus on the creative and cultural development of children and young people.
* There should be greater targeted support for vulnerable young people in the transition from school to further or higher education, training and work.
* Local government is committed to improving home school links and ensuring better communication with school boards and parents. Councils will seek to explore the effective introduction of personal learning plans adjusted to take account of local and individual needs.
* Every effort should be made to ensure that the momentum to reform teachers' conditions and working arrangements is maintained.
* Proposals to embed the devolved school management scheme and school development plans in statute are unnecessary and could be counter-productive.
* There should be a joint review of the functions of HMI and the Accounts Commission, to clarify their role and the role of local authorities in curriculum policy and in quality assurance arrangements, taking account of ongoing developments on best value including COSLA's proposal for a new Improvement Agency.
* An exercise should be initiated much more fully to assess how much investment is needed to bring the school building stock up to standard with a view to informing any future discussions with partner organisations in the community planning context about the possibilities of pooling resources and targeting. COSLA opposes new legislation dealing with inspection of education authorities on the grounds that the current arrangements, under which it is up to each authority to invite HMI on a voluntary basis, are satisfactory.
Copies of COSLA's response to the White Paper 'Targeting Excellence - Modernising Scotland's Schools' are available from the COSLA public affairs office, or on COSLA's website - www.cosla.gov.uk.