Plan for Kintyre schools’ ‘cluster’ paused

Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, policy lead for education.

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Plans to bring Campbeltown Grammar School and six primaries together under one ‘executive head teacher’ have been put on hold by Argyll and Bute Council.

The proposal, which would create a Kintyre schools’ ‘cluster’ with a combined roll of 885 pupils, is part of an education change programme which, if implemented, will impact schools across the local authority area.

The council said the plans were drawn up in a bid ‘to discover if new and improved ways of working could be implemented’, taking into account the area’s ‘significant geographic’ challenges.

But at last Thursday’s meeting of the community services committee, it was decided that robust consultations were needed before any plans were progressed.

Councillors unanimously agreed there needed to be extensive community engagement to discuss and develop new ways of running and maintaining rural schools.

A programme of consultations will be carried out on a council-wide basis to provide maximum opportunity for communities, parents and carers, teachers, head teachers, trade unions and elected officials to have their say.

Input received will be central to shaping the education change programme proposals before they are presented back to the community services committee.

The council says the programme ‘promises to enhance the region’s education services through better access to resources and staff, strengthened leadership, and enhanced connections among schools and that collaboration begins right now, with a proposal for community and stakeholder engagement’.

If the changes go ahead, it could see schools with pupils from ages three to 18 working together.

Resources would be bought and shared out in each cluster and teachers would work for a cluster rather than one particular school so they too could be shared, for example to give cover.

Schools’ locations would be a dominant factor in grouping clusters. In Argyll, 48 schools are listed as remote or very remote rural.

A report said the council’s intention was to phase in the cluster model, starting first in Kintyre, Bute and Dunoon.

After the meeting, Argyll and Bute Council’s policy lead for education Councillor Yvonne McNeilly said she was delighted that the community services committee unanimously agreed to expand engagement with communities across Argyll and Bute.

She said: ‘The best outcomes for our young people are at the heart of all our work. We are a council that listens to our communities and this proactive engagement programme will be at the core of our decision-making.

‘To provide the very best for our children and young people we must take positive action to deliver a sustainable education service. This expanded engagement programme is one such positive action.’