‘Collective leadership’ plan for schools concerns community

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Argyll and Bute Council has launched a new website explaining its proposals for school clusters – now calling it ‘collective leadership’.

The website at www.EmpoweringOurEducators.co.uk invites parents, carers and residents across Argyll and Bute to have their say on the proposed changes which could see around 80 current headteacher posts become just 14.

The website includes a short film and gives details to download as part of a consultation giving people the chance to influence the proposals as they are developed, says the council.

It has agreed a contract worth £23,180 plus VAT with a marketing agency to help run the consultation.

According to the council, toolkits to run consultations have been sent to all community councils and parent councils in Argyll and Bute so they can hold their own feedback sessions and report back – the deadline for responses is February 4.

But lobbying group WISE4ALL says it is not a true consultation.

‘This is a series of assertions to which we are asked to agree or disagree,’ said a spokesperson.

The issue was one of the items on the agenda at a meeting of East Kintyre Community Council (EKCC) last Thursday, December 2.

EKCC convenor Ian Brodie told the Courier this week that the community council was concerned it was no more than ‘a cost-saving exercise being packaged as strategic leadership improvement’.

‘Kintyre already has cluster schools within the primary sector which have yet to provide evidence of success,’ he said.

‘In the interests of future-proofing the repopulation of our rural villages, it is a very real fear that this will be a further step to the closure of rural schools which will be devastating to our community.

‘Centralisation rarely works, as is evident throughout the public and private sector.

‘It was only months ago that community councils were meeting with the chief executive and education authority, discussing the failings of Campbeltown Grammar School.

‘The school is in a better place at the moment but to centralise the leadership to a ‘super head’ would put an already fragile structure under unnecessary strain.’

Councillor Alastair Redman, who was in attendance at the EKCC meeting, said he did not support the proposed executive headships, saying it would be a ‘negative’ change.

‘There are broad concerns about how schools will operate effectively in the delivery, quality and equity of education in Argyll and Bute if the proposed move to executive headships goes ahead,’ he said.

‘Argyll and Bute Council is currently employing an outside marketing agency to consult teachers, school staff and the communities they serve on this proposal.

‘However, many feel this is something that’s already done and this exercise is about selling this proposal to the communities rather than genuinely seeking views.

‘This consultation will also cost the hard-pressed taxpayer a great deal and perhaps that money could be better invested in repairing and refurbishing some of our local schools.’

Mr Brodie said: ‘Communities in Argyll and Bute have been struggling after the pandemic, to reset and build back from their losses in 2020, and are looking forward to being able to celebrate the festive season in 2021; the timing of this consultation indicates how far removed the education authority is from the communities it serves, leaving this community council feeling rather cynical.’

Argyll and Bute Council’s policy lead for education Councillor Yvonne McNeilly said the best outcomes for young people were at the heart of all the council’s work.

She said: ‘We are a council that listens to our communities and this proactive engagement programme is at the core of our decision-making.’