CONTROVERSIAL plans to bypass local government in the running of schools are facing a challenge from the leaders of a number of SNP councils.

Earlier this year, John Swinney, the Education Secretary, announced plans to set up new regional bodies to take over the responsibility of supporting school improvement from local government.

A particular concern is the fact the new regions would be led by a government-appointed director reporting to the chief inspector of schools.

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Currently, council-employed education directors report on progress to education committees made up of elected councillors.

Now a group of council leaders representing the greater Glasgow region is discussing a different model of regional partnership.

Instead, regional directors would be appointed by councils rather than the Scottish Government and report to local authorities as well as inspectorate body Education Scotland.

The regional director would be appointed for a fixed term with the arrangement "reviewed" as the Government’s plans "become more shaped".

The group represents a number of SNP-led local authorities including Glasgow, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire as well as Labour-led Inverclyde and North Lanarkshire and coalitions in East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire.

It is understood the plan has the backing of SNP and Labour council leaders on the City Region Cabinet who will now recommend it to their respective councils and open discussions with the Scottish Government.

John Ross, the leader of South Lanarkshire Council, said: “We are already working together to grow the economy and now have an opportunity to consider how we expand to improve education outcomes.”

Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, said: “The plan to force through centralising reforms to schools has been met with opposition from Labour, the trade unions, parents and teachers and now it is being opposed by SNP councillors.

“Mr Swinney now faces a choice of whether he tries to remove local accountability and take decisions away from representatives of local communities or does he back down in the face of clear opposition.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said regional collaboratives had the potential to provide the support teachers need.

She added: “We welcome that authorities in the Glasgow region have begun to work together with a view to increasing the pace of improvement in education and their commitment to working with us on the further development of regional collaboratives.”

In June, government pledged to work with councils and others to establish the regional improvement collaboratives.