Parents vent anger over cuts proposed for school
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”.’