‘We need our own head teacher’: Tiree rejects council’s school reform

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A plan for collective school headships has been strongly opposed by islanders on Tiree – the island serving as the ‘successful’ model for the proposal.

Argyll-wide consultation on Argyll and Bute Council’s controversial proposal ends today (Thursday March 31).

Tiree Community Council, having canvassed the views of its community, has concluded it ‘strongly opposes’ the council’s controversial Collective Leadership Model, which would replace the role of head teacher with a ‘head of school’, and cluster schools together led by an ‘executive head’.

‘Opinion was emphatically of the view (by almost three to one) that the model will not benefit pupils attending Tiree High School,’ Tiree Community Council stated.

‘[Argyll and Bute] Council claims that the proposed model “expands on the success of shared headship between Oban and Tiree schools”.

‘Tiree High School is currently closer to the proposed model than most other schools in Argyll and Bute. Despite the small size and peripheral situation of our school, this island community therefore has an important voice in the debate.

‘Despite the Education Department’s claim that ‘The [Collective Leadership Model] has been developed by educationalists with extensive input from head teachers and local communities’, we are not aware of any input from our ‘local community’.

‘But we who live here – we who understand the island best and have the biggest stake in the school’s success – want to be genuine partners in finding local solutions.

‘We therefore propose that the ‘Collective Leadership Model’ is set aside and a new conversation about the future of Argyll and Bute’s schools begins.’

The proposal was discussed via three public meetings, and an anonymous online survey, which ran for three weeks. ‘At least 79 people answered 11 questions,’ community councillors said.

‘Respondents included 38 parents (including 15 parents of secondary school pupils), 14 members of staff, five senior pupils and 24 members of the community. (The Tiree primary and secondary school roll in 2018 was 110).’

The survey found that ‘the majority’ (including a majority of respondents who were staff) thought that the model would not help teaching or learning in Tiree High School.

‘Large majorities thought that the model would increase the numbers of young people leaving Tiree and that the model would not attract families to the island. This is crucial because reversing population decline on the island is a fundamental policy of Tiree Community Council.

‘A number of respondents pointed out that there had been substantial investment in the school over the last two years. However, most people thought that the proposed model would ultimately lead to an overall drop in funding for smaller schools like Tiree. Many saw this proposal as a cost savings exercise and would lead to the eventual closure of senior secondary school classes on Tiree.

‘The majority believed that the model would result in less Gaelic being spoken on the island. This is another core objection. Reversing the decline in the community use of Gaelic on the island is a central policy of Tiree Community Council.

‘It has been our experience that closer links with Oban High School have led to an increase in teaching using VC at Tiree High School. Significantly, a large majority (including all responding pupils and a majority of responding staff) wanted to see a reduction in VC teaching.

‘We did not specifically ask this question, but many respondents expressed an opinion typified by one reply: “We need our own dedicated head teacher.”‘