Campbeltown Courier

Education reforms look to be ‘cost neutral’

- By Fiona Ross editor@campeltown­

Moving Argyll and Bute schools into clusters led by an executive head would result in neither cost-savings or increased expenditur­e, according to education chiefs.

Speaking on Tuesday, Argyll and Bute Council education manager for transforma­tion Louise Connor said the school collective proposals were expected to be ‘cost neutral’ meaning the council expected no changes to be made to the education budget if the new scheme was implemente­d.

The proposals commit the council to putting more teachers in classrooms and closing no schools, but with falling school rolls predicted to decline further, and resources allocated according to pupil numbers, concerns have been raised as to how the budget can be balanced. Launching its petition against the proposals, the EIS teaching union said: ‘We believe these changes are simply a cost-cutting exercise that will not empower schools and support attainment but rather will damage educationa­l delivery, quality and equity in Argyll and Bute.’

When asked how the proposals would be cost neutral, Ms Connor explained that teachers’ pay grades would be reviewed in line with changes to their roles as well as pupil numbers in their class.

She added that some headteache­rs would also be expected to retire within the transition period.

‘Job sizing will be critical if the proposals are to be implemente­d,’ Ms Connor said.

Council documents explain that job sizing takes into account the size of schools, leadership roles and teaching time when deciding on the salary scale for promoted posts in education.

‘Headteache­rs retiring would also form part of the modelling,’ Ms Connor added.

‘If a school collective was agreed where there were, for example, seven headteache­rs then two might be retiring and that would form part of the model. Until collective­s are looked at in more detail, we can’t have a clear idea of staff numbers.’

As part of the consultati­on process, due to finish at the end of January, the council has shared its proposals with parent groups and community councils. Feedback from the consultati­on is to be presented to Argyll and Bute Council in April. This will be followed by the proposals being voted on towards the end of 2022 and, if approved, interim processes to bring in the changes would begin in spring 2023.

At Tuesday’s meeting it was explained, however, that the consultati­on will continue throughout the process with pupils, parents and educators being included in the process throughout. Dialogue is continuing with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Argyll and the Isles concerning faith schools in school collective­s.

These discussion­s were described by council officers as ‘ongoing’ and ‘collaborat­ive’.

Concerns were also raised about the timing of the proposed changes, coming when pupils’ education and wellbeing had been impacted by the pandemic.

Acting head of education, learning and teaching Wendy Brownlie said: ‘Young people’s views have been gathered throughout and they have expressed really interestin­g points both for and against the changes.’

The consultati­on paper addresses the issue of the pandemic by saying: ‘The last couple of years have been extraordin­arily challengin­g for schools. But we need to keep thinking long term.’

 ?? ?? Plans for cluster schools in Argyll and Bute will have no cost impact, according to education chiefs.
Plans for cluster schools in Argyll and Bute will have no cost impact, according to education chiefs.

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