Parents voice concern over money-saving school plans
MONEY-SAVING proposals, which will see head teachers manage several schools at once, have been approved by Highland Council.
The drastic shake-up of management in Highland schools was voted through last Thursday (January 26) by 15 votes to nine.
But members of the Highland Council’s Education, Children and Adult Services committee (ECAS) stopped plans in one Lochaber area where the strategy caused particular controversy.
Council officials agreed to postpone a decision on cluster management in the Mallaig area school group (ASG) until the March ECAS meeting. Mallaig ASG, which covers Mallaig High School and eight primary schools, including four on islands, was taken out the equation after parents claimed there had been a lack of communication from the council about the proposal.
Caol and Mallaig councillor Ben Thompson told The Oban
Times that a parent council meeting last Monday (January 23) was attended by about 30 parents who unanimously rejected the proposal.
He said: ‘People are worried about how you would manage a current head teacher’s transition to a principal teacher. This would be seen as a downgrade by the head teacher which some said could have a negative impact on recruitment.’ Mr Thompson added this is particularly sensitive to island schools in the Mallaig ASG, who said a negative impact on recruitment is a threat to an entire island community if families leave or chose not to live there.
He said: ‘Some of the teachers are now worried they will lose their job in August – when this is meant to be rolled out – which is unacceptable. People at the meeting were very doubtful about how this plan can work geographically in such a complex ASG that covers nine schools.’
ECAS committee chairman Drew Millar said: ‘ Members of this committee previously agreed to the Management of Schools Programme in October 2015. We recognised head teachers required more support and that Highland needs to develop a new model for provision of education into the future.
‘This agreement that we have committed to again today is about sustaining education in local communities across the Highlands. It is not about onesize-fits all and it is not about school closures.
‘Assurance has been given today that where there has been lack of consultation, this will be addressed.’
After the meeting, the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch described the decisions as treating Highland schools ‘like the X-Factor’.
Kate Forbes said the council had to face up to a ‘ lack of consultation on a significant change to rural education’ after she received a high number of concerns from constituents – Plockton, Invergarry, Mallaig and the Small Isles cluster would all be affected.
She said: ‘These plans are significant and parents need to have answers before they are pushed through.
‘ What is being proposed is a significant restructure in the management of our local schools and one would assume major changes such as this must go through a robust consultation.
‘I don’t expect everyone to be happy with the end result, but Highland Council must allow teachers, parents and other stakeholders the opportunity to have their say in a transparent and fair way.’