More time to have your say on school ‘cluster’ plans

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Communities are getting more time to have a say on Argyll and Bute Council’s education shake-up proposals.

The date for feedback to be sent in has now been shifted from February 4 to March 4 – extending the consultation over the council’s cluster school plans by one month.

Parent councils, teachers, school staff, community councils should all have seen a copy of the proposals by now and have a feedback form to respond to the council’s renamed Collective Leadership Model. If they have not got it yet, they can contact support@empoweringoureducators.co.uk

The time extension is about making sure everyone has the time they need to understand the proposals and have conversations about it, before having their say.

It will go to the full council in autumn 2022 for a decision.

Members of the public can also look at and give input on the proposed model at EmpoweringOurEducators.co.uk where details of the consultation timetable can also be found and a short film about the potential changes.

Taynuilt community council is planning on running a session in January to discuss the proposals. The date is to be confirmed.

Discussions on it have also recently been raised at Mull and Seil and Easdale Community Councils.

Scotland’s largest teaching union EIS calculates that under the proposed changes around 80 current headteacher posts could become just 14.

The council says falling pupil numbers and challenges in recruiting staff are behind proposals for the new ‘collective’ model which would empower schools to work more effectively together and share resources.

A contract worth £23,180, excluding VAT, was agreed by the council with a marketing agency to help run the consultation for them.

There have been claims the agency-led consultation is more like ‘selling a product’ to parents and teachers.

One parent went online to say: ‘Part of the issue is the video looks to be a glossy PR product without sufficient information. If the changes were so positive facts would speak for themselves.’

Lobbying group WISE4ALL has thanked councillors who helped to secure an extension to the consultation period but there are still concerns about not having details needed to show how the current cluster leadership proposals were formed and what other ideas were ruled out in the process.

A WISE4ALL spokesperson said: ‘We remain concerned that we have not had the evidence necessary to determine how the Collective Leadership model was determined as the best model for our schools, or what other alternative models were considered and critically assessed.’

Kintyre and Islands councillor Alastair Redman, who does not support proposed executive headships and believes it would be a ‘negative’ change said that by giving a time extension, the council was making an admission that it had not given people enough time or information in the first place to be consulted properly.

‘What I’m picking up from people is that they feel the council is trying to sell a product rather than consulting them on it.

‘We are also asking the council where is the proof that this model has worked in the past and will work in the future?

‘What’s the point of extending a consultation if it is a flawed consultation?’

Argyll and Bute Council’s policy lead for education Councillor Yvonne McNeilly has said on record that best outcomes for young people are at the heart of all the council’s work and she pledge the ‘proactive’ engagement programme was at the core of its decision-making.