Documents shed light on council plan to axe head teachers

The Empowering Our Educators plan has met with resistance across communities.

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Campaigners against Argyll and Bute Council’s plan for cluster schools say they feel ‘misled’ following the release of ‘new information’ under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

Argyll and Bute Council’s ‘collective leadership model’ seeks to replace head teachers with ‘heads of school’ and cluster schools under an ‘executive head’, plans parent councils, community councils and teachers’ union EIS have spoken out against.

Last February, a council education manager said ‘actual collectives’ had not been identified and only if plans were approved would more consultation begin on the design of school clusters.

But an internal council report in December 2020 said the project team had ‘taken time to identify actual clusters in Argyll and Bute’.

A summary from March 2021 added the team had ‘given consideration to identifying the actual clusters which could be introduced’.

The council agreed a contract worth £23,180, excluding VAT, with a marketing agency to help run a consultation, called ‘Collective Leadership Model: Empowering our Educators’, which ended on March 31.

The council’s invitation to tender read: ‘Argyll and Bute Council are seeking specialist support to develop marketing products and a brand identity, with associated narrative, designed to influence a variety of stakeholders that our concept of executive head teachers managing a cluster of schools with a supporting leadership team offers improved benefits to them.

‘We need to segment our stakeholders, there are a percentage that mistrust and will never support. The silent majority are our target audience and we are looking to turn this group into advocates who will help us to persuade and influence within their own communities and peers.’

Michael Breslin, a former lead councillor for education and lifelong learning, said: ‘It is evident that their concept was fixed…so is this a genuine consultation or is it the marketing of the concept to the public?’

A council spokesperson said action has to be taken to address the area’s ‘unique set of challenges, such as rural settings, declining populations and competition in recruiting teaching skills to ensure young people benefit from a ‘sustainable education service that works for every pupil’.

‘We produced initial ideas for how this might be done,’ added the spokesperson, ‘and used those, through our recent engagement exercise, to gather feedback, views, questions and ideas from parents, teachers, young people, trade unions and many others.

‘Decisions about the long-term future of our education service will be made openly and transparently through our committee services, so the next step will be to take a report to the council’s community services committee, on outcomes from this engagement exercise and actions coming out of that.’

The next meeting of the committee services committee is on August 25.