‘Bin it to win it’

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Argyll and Bute Council’s controversial education reform is turning into a make-or-break issue for candidates in May’s local election.

The proposed Collective Leadership Model, which moves Argyll schools into clusters led by an executive head, is under consultation until March 31, at empoweringoureducators.co.uk

The Argyll and Bute Parent Council Network confirmed that many of the 37 chairpersons continued to question the model’s validity after its meeting last Wednesday.

Earlier, the chairperson of Hermitage Academy Parent Counci,l Stella Kinloch, told Islay Community Council the network had asked the plan to be paused in a letter to Argyll and Bute Council’s executive director Douglas Hendry.

‘The fear of the network is that we have councillors voting on something that, on a marketing view, it looks okay, but if this gets voted through there may be no way back,’ she said.

‘We are all trying to keep up to date with a vast amount of information that is coming flying at us,’ added an island parent council member Alyson MacGillivray. ‘It is a bit overwhelming trying to keep up with it all. The mainstream is the lack of evidence.’

‘If I was going to buy a new house, I would look to see inside of that house,’ said Tracy Mayo of lobbying group Wise4All. ‘I am being asked to sign up to a model and then receive the details later.

‘We have no way of assessing the model,’ she explained: ‘We have been given one option. We have been given no evidence. We have been given no risk assessments. We have been given no costings. We do not know how our teachers feel, because they are responding separately.

‘Iona Community Council have been asking for evidence for eight months and I have seen the emails. The email runs to 49 pages or more, and we still do not have the evidence.

‘They have been given some information, but it does not answer their questions, and on the last emails I saw, they were referred to the Scottish Information Commissioner for any further information.’

Some parent councils are filling in freedom-of-information requests, she added.

‘I firmly believe in collaborative working with our council, but right now we are not in that position. I do not think I can take a huge leap of faith and say yes to this proposal.

‘Trust is low. It is very hard to engage parents when you start off from a position of mistrust. So we have no way of knowing that it is going to do no harm to our community.

‘If we downgrade the head teacher job in some of our schools, there may not be the same opportunities for progression as a teacher. It could make us less attractive and I am really worried about the sustainability of island life.

‘When I have researched the model, it’s a model of last resort. It is an emergency model.

‘I am against us taking a huge risk with changing the education system.

‘Education is a necessity. It is not a luxury. I do not think I should gamble with its future.’

Islay community councillor Calum Murray, a former teacher, said: ‘My feeling is to nip this in the bud, that with the elections coming up very soon in May, we should ensure that not one councillor is re-elected that would support this measure.’

Fellow community councillor Garry MacLean, agreed: ‘It is important we do not have councillors voting for something that they cannot possibly understand, because there is not enough information in the consultation.

‘Our parent teacher councils are telling us that they do not have enough information to make a decision, so either it should be binned, or they need to come up with more information.

‘At one point in time we used to elect councillors to make policy, and then the civil servants were the ones that carried it out, but it seems to be putting the cart before the horse here.’