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Reaction to Argyll and Bute Council’s education plans

Opposition to the move

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By Andrew Revill and Gordon Neish

As the council announced plans to make radical changes to education in the area, we sought reaction from parent councils in Cowal and Bute, and teachers’ representatives.

A letter to some parents announcing the proposals, sent by head of education Louise Connor and executive director Douglas Hendry said that the council wanted to be ‘accountable, authentic and approachable’ throughout the process.

While the three parent councils on Bute are keeping an open mind until more is known about the plans, Cowal folk were more forthright..

Francesca Bowman, chair of St Andrew’s Primary parent council said: “I think we are all, understandably, a little bit concerned and have quite a lot of questions, but hopefully we get a chance to be heard.

“We will try and be open minded. There is a lot of information out there but we haven’t had a chance to get to grips with it all.

“We’ve had a rough time of it, with Covid, and I think what we’re really looking for is some stability in our schools.”

Emma Thomas, vice chair of the Rothesay Joint Campus parent council is keeping an open mind on the proposals until more is known from yesterdays meeting – which was taking place as we were preparing to go to print.
”I think we should hold off drawing any conclusions until more is known,” Emma explained.

“It is possible it will be voted down at the meeting, but if it does go to a consultation we are hopeful that we will see some engagement from the council.

“We are waiting to see what comes out, then we can engage with it and look to represent the interests of all the parents in our forum.”

Susan McKay, chair of North Bute Primary’s parent council and parent representative for Argyll and Bute said: “I would say the timing is awful.

“I think that what parents want right now is stability.”

Susan added that parents would be ‘more than happy’ to work with the council on a review of how it delivers education, but that doing it now it unhelpful.

“Two weeks before the end of term, the worst school year ever for pupils, staff and parents.

“I await the plans with bated breath,” she added.

Tracy Coy, chair of Kirn Primary Parent Council, said: “The cluster schools proposal is about “fluidity and flexibility” in the way educational resources are deployed. What our children in Cowal need – now more than ever – is stability and security.

“The two concepts are not compatible. We are all very aware of the budgetary challenges created by the pandemic. However, education is the last area where the axe should fall.”

Sandbank Gaelic Unit parents have their own concerns. Monika Boyd of Comann Nam Parant A’ Choimhall said: “There is little mention of the Gaelic Unit in the proposals – nothing confirming that the kids willremain in the Gaelic medium environment.

“Will the dedicated Gaelic teachers be required to teach in mainstream classes? It just doesn’t say.

“The kids need stability, they are already unsettled after the pandemic.”

Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), speaks for the teachers and head teachers involved in the cluster proposal.

Argyll and Bute EIS secretary Willie Hamilton told this newspaper: “Whilst we recognise and are supportive of any potential educational benefits around the sharing of resources and closer partnership working between the sectors in this development, the limited details of the impact around this restructuring and what it may mean for individuals has understandably raised anxiety and concerns.

“We are particularly aware that these developments have been raised at a time when staff, parents and pupils are still experiencing the workload pressures and stresses from the Covid pandemic and would urge the authority to pursue a cautious approach as there are still matters that require further clarity and significant concerns that need to be addressed.

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