Par­ents vent anger over cuts pro­posed for school

The Oban Times - - News - DAVID MCPHEE dm­cphee@oban­

PRO­POSED changes to a school on Mull have left par­ents feel­ing frus­trated and con­cerned about their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion as well as the well­be­ing of staff.

Salen pri­mary school is set to lose the equiv­a­lent of one full-time teacher – one is be­ing de­ployed to other schools on the is­land for three days and an­other for two days. This will re­sult in staff hav­ing to teach both Gaelic and main­stream classes.

Th­ese ad­just­ments are part of a school census that also re­quires the head teacher to teach classes three days per week.

Richard Cel­lett, chair­man of Salen par­ent coun­cil, said: ‘The head teacher will have to teach three days a week, as well as do­ing what a head teacher does – man­age a nurs­ery, pre-school and a Gaelic and a main­stream school. We all think that is not pos­si­ble.

‘And it looks like the Gaelic teacher, who will have to teach at other schools, will be teach­ing main­stream classes as well as Gaelic, which is alarm­ing con­sid­er­ing that there’s a short­age of Gaelic teachers in the coun­try.

‘The pro­posed changes are con­cern­ing and it’s likely that a teacher who has been with us for 31 years will leave and the new Gaelic teacher may leave Mull and get a full-time po­si­tion else­where. If that hap­pens, the school will not be able to sur­vive that.’

In a let­ter ad­dressed to Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil’s head of ser­vice for ed­u­ca­tion, the Par­ent Coun­cil wrote: ‘Jug­gling th­ese dif­fer­ent roles is likely to be highly stress­ful, and we be­lieve that Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil has a duty of care to its em­ploy­ees to en­sure that this pro­posal does not in­duce un­ac­cept­able pres­sure on the head teacher or other teach­ing staff at the school, and fully con­sid­ers the well­be­ing of its staff be­fore in­sti­gat­ing th­ese changes.’

Mary Ire­son, a par­ent of a Salen pri­mary pupil, said: ‘For me, it’s about the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion. The coun­cil has al­ready taken away the li­brary ser­vice on Mull.

‘We have pri­mary ones com­ing in who don’t know any Gaelic and we have pri­mary threes who are at a dif­fer­ent stage of learn­ing. How can we ex­pect one per­son to teach a class of 23?’

A spokesper­son for Ar­gyll and Bute coun­cil said: ‘The staffing al­lo­ca­tion for Salen pri­mary school is firmly based on the na­tion­ally agreed class ra­tios be­tween teachers and pupils, and the agreed staffing for­mula for schools. The staffing ex­er­cise has iden­ti­fied sur­plus staffing in both the main­stream and Gaelic classes and, con­se­quently, the coun­cil has im­ple­mented its trans­fer pol­icy and guid­ance for teachers in re­spect of mem­bers of staff af­fected. There are no re­dun­dan­cies of teach­ing staff in Salen pri­mary.

‘A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of our head teachers have a com­bined teach­ing and man­age­ment or lead­er­ship role within our schools and, con­se­quently, are very skilled and ex­pe­ri­enced in en­sur­ing best use is made of their al­lo­cated time.’

Mary-Jean Devon, coun­cil­lor for Oban South and the Isles, said: ‘It is not a bud­get cut. This is from the school census, which hap­pens ev­ery year and any ad­just­ments are made for the restart in Au­gust. There are no teachers be­ing made re­dun­dant.’

How­ever, Michael Rus­sell, MSP for Ar­gyll and Bute, said: ‘I am very con­cerned. The cuts agreed by the full coun­cil in Fe­bru­ary were bad enough but they are be­ing added to by stealth and with­out any demo­cratic over­sight as coun­cil­lors are told when they in­quire that th­ese are “op­er­a­tional mat­ters”.’

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