Par­ents voice con­cern over money-sav­ing school plans

The Oban Times - - NEWS - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

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.’

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