Letters to the Editor – 1.7.21

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Communities ignored

After a long consultation process, I’m very concerned that the views of our local community councils have not been listened to concerning the boundary changes.

Local residents of Islay, Jura and Colonsay are very confused that the Islands act, which is supposed to empower our islands, is being referenced in these boundary changes which will lead to those of us who live on the islands having less representation.

It’s very disappointing that our community council’s expressed wish to retain the existing ward boundary seems to have been completely ignored in so far as the Boundaries Scotland recommendations are concerned. Contrary to the views that were put forward, with a case which was supported by our existing councillors, it seems that we are to be turned into an ‘islands only’ ward with no Kintyre connection and one less councillor.

The Islay Community Council, which represents by far the largest area of population of the ward concerned (and with a similar view expressed by Jura Community Council), local Ileachs find it hard to understand that our communities’ wishes should simply have been disregarded and dismissed in this way.

It begs the question as to why the commission should have bothered to ask for our views in the first place, if the ultimate decision would simply be to ignore them and do what they wished.

Boundary Scotland’s proposals will leave the islands in Argyll and Bute with less representation and force many areas of the mainland into wards they do not want to be part of.

STV was brought in to ensure a plurality of views was brought to local government, and one or two member wards will reduce scope for that. At a time when technology such as Zoom can help bridge distances, the rationale for smaller island-based wards has actually been eroded.
Councillor Alastair Redman, Kintyre and the Islands ward.

School uniform discussion

The current discussion regarding the unreasonable enforcement of Oban High School uniform is an important one.
In no way does it detract from or deny the many successes and achievements of both pupils and staff at OHS. We are proud of the way our young people, despite experiencing significant upheaval and difficulty this last year, have continued to work with staff and teachers to achieve and maintain their educational goals. The achievements and successes of all at OHS are a great reflection on the area and we continue to applaud that.

However, the mental health and wellbeing of our young people is vital in ensuring they continue to feel supported and able to meet the goals they set for themselves. This is why parents, pupils and the Oban High School Uniform Reform Group feel the current unreasonable enforcement of school uniform policy is untenable and inappropriate.

Our young people have spent a great deal of time isolated from peers, going to school is an opportunity for them to re-establish those connections and relationships, alongside their academic work. Feeling comfortable, confident and free to express themselves is vital in maintaining their mental health and sense of wellbeing.

Sixty-five per cent of parents/guardians surveyed reported that their child had been subjected to unreasonable enforcement, ranging from having to wear shared clothing or shoes, sent home or taken to the shop to purchase alternative clothing. Such measures remove the young person from academic time; are often highlighted in front of peers thereby causing embarrassment and shaming; and detrimentally impact upon their confidence and sense of wellbeing.

On behalf of parents and pupils, OHS Uniform Reform Group are asking that OHS cease this unreasonable enforcement and comply with Argyll and Bute council policy that states schools are encouraged to suggest school uniform but that “school uniform is not compulsory and it is not policy to insist on pupils wearing uniform or having specialist items of clothing in order to engage in all the activities of the curriculum. As such, pupils will not be deprived of any educational benefit as a result of not wearing uniform”.

Current enforcement also appears to unfairly target girls, working against the modern ideals of body positivity, and is discriminatory. We are not suggesting that the uniform be removed, we recognise the benefits and rewards of a school uniform. However OHS Uniform Reform Group, parents and pupils suggest that the current enforcement is heavy handed and inappropriate.

School uniform should encourage a group identity whilst allowing individuals to express themselves; dress appropriately for the weather; be gender neutral; and not impact upon the education or wellbeing of the young people. The current enforcement does not meet these criteria, nor does it comply with Argyll and But policy.

We are keen to discuss ways to improve the situation with OHS and Argyll and But Council in order to ensure our young people continue to feel supported; continue worth with and succeed at OHS; and continue to maintain their wellbeing and develop their own identities.

We have always been and remain our young peoples biggest fans, and are proud of all those who have passed through, and continue to pass through Oban High School.
Oban High School Uniform Reform Group.

Technology is not our friend

Recently I was passing some time in the Oban and Lorn hospital, and as I waited I thought that I would buy a bottle of water, given that the ambient temperature was approaching 20C. I selected a vending machine, gave it £1.50, received 40p change but no water.

Neither the staff in the RVS shop nor the hospital receptionist were able to help, although the receptionist did point out a number on the offending machine that I could phone to report the fault. After reporting the fault and explaining twice what had happened, I was offered the refund sent to my home or to the hospital for me to pick up.
When are we going to realise that customer service systems do everything but serve the customer?
David Hebenton, Oban