Highland Council – Management of Schools proposal & its impact on Eigg Primary

Eigg Parent Council

24.01.16

RESPONSE BY PARENT COUNCIL TO 

‘MANAGEMENT OF SCHOOLS – PROPOSAL FOR IMPLEMENTATION’

Eigg Parent Council would like to draw particular attention to two of the implications detailed in this proposal which Councillors are using to make their decision. These are:

4.3 Risk ‘If this project is not delivered successfully there is a risk regarding the long term sustainability of some of our educational provision’

4.6 Equalities and Rural: ‘It is important that these plans maintain/enhance the equity of educational provision across the highland area. In particular the revised delivery model must ensure a sustainable provision for children, families and staff.

In considering these implications we wish to make Councillors aware of the following impacts on our island economy, community, teachers, parents and children.

Impact on Communities:

We feel that this proposal will uniquely affect island communities. Of the 8 ASG’s, Mallaig ASG will suffer the greatest impact due to the lack of consideration for isolated island communities. We strongly feel that the proposal is not only a ‘risk to long-term sustainability of educational provision’ (4.3) but to the long-term viability of our island community.

  • By lumping island schools with the mainland it is failing to consider the unique geographical constraints of island schools, particularly transport and travel.  This trial makes no consideration for the fragile nature of island communities. It doesn’t just affect the schools, teachers and pupils, but the knock-on effect will impact on the future viability of entire island communities.
  • New families will be discouraged from coming to the islands, and existing families may leave (including teacher families) – which will in turn affect the whole viability/economy of the islands.
  • At a wider scale less pupils at primary means less going to the High School, so it has a negative impact on the Mallaig High school and Mallaig community too. It is in effect a “Highland Clearance”
  • It will become increasingly difficult to recruit future teaching staff for the islands considering the above issues and therefore make it more likely that we will see islands forced into a situation of accepting ICT lead education – something that would most certainly lead to families leaving the islands, and undermining everything the islands have strived towards in terms of making viable, sustainable island communities.

Impact on Teachers & Schools:

  • In the short term, the impact of piloting a scheme in Yr1 whilst delivering curriculum and newly implemented remote teaching methods seems an unmanageable solution.
  • The long term proposals to have a school with limited island head-teacher presence and more use of ICT would have a disastrous effect on our schools.
  • Our isolated location and reliance on ferry connections has considerable implications on limited head teacher face-to-face support their role for the welfare of teachers and pupils.
  • The reduction of headship positions reduces career development opportunities and subsequent lack of interest to young promising professionals applying to posts within the Small Isles.
  • It will become increasingly difficult to recruit future teaching staff for the islands considering the above issues.
  • Expecting a mainland-based principal teacher to provide a day a week’s support for each of the four Small Isles schools using the Caledonian Macbrayne ferry service would mean they would spend more time on the ferry than in school and in winter more than likely not get out to the islands at all.
  • Providing clerical and janitorial support from the mainland is impractical and unworkable, and also would remove two jobs from our fragile island economy.

Impact on Pupils:

  • Impacts on teachers identified above will undoubtedly have negative impact on pupils, and knock-on effect on our community.
  • We don’t believe this model can provide equal quality of education as mainland schools as it fails to take account of our unique island situation.
  • ICT issues – whilst ICT is used in the island communities, there are always access problems, which is very frustrating and would be detrimental to a child’s education. Parents do not want their children, particularly youngest age groups to be dependent on computer learning, they want face to face teaching which provides the best educational outcome.

We are particularly aggrieved at lack of consultation and railroading technique used in this process on these major changes. First we have heard about it is through the newspaper article in the P and J last week. Due to short notice it is difficult to make our views known and impossible to get to meetings in person. This has led to a lack of trust and feeling of insecurity for our community.

We would ask that island schools be examined separately under different criteria from mainland schools. This does not impact solely on education but the sustainability of our community as a whole.

CLICK HERE TO READ the Management of Schools Proposal to be considered by the Education, Children and Adult Services Committee on 26th January, 2017.

If you would like to add your comment publicly, please use the LEAVE A REPLY box below.

To contact the Parent Council by email, click here. 

12 Comments

  1. Welcome Welcome
    4th February 2017    

    Due to the volume of correspondence Councillors received from our area, the decision to restructure our school cluster group has been deferred until the next Council meeting on 1st March. Without the letters and e-mails that you sent we would not have been granted this reprieve.

    It was acknowledged that there was a failure in lack of consultation for our area. We are looking forward to a constructive process of meaningful consultation in the forthcoming weeks.

  2. Katrin Katrin
    25th January 2017    

    This is to all councillors, MPs and to whomever it may concern:

    Dear Sir/ Madam,

    I am writing to you regarding the upcoming decision on the school re-organisation of the small isles.

    Having undergone teacher training myself I feel very strongly about the issue and I don’t believe that education is an area where cuts and compromises should be made. After all it is the future of our nation which is determined by the children who attend today’s primary and secondary schools.

    The proposed model would not only put the pupils to an enormous disadvantage, but also the entire small isles community.

    Here are some of the possible outcomes:

    Quality of school education will be undermined
    Eigg and the small isles will be less attractive for families to move to and existing families may consider leaving the island
    Recruiting future teaching staff will be difficult in a non supported teaching environment
    There is increased likelihood of being forced to accept IT lead education for our children
    Our currently unique thriving young community could be under threat

    We ask that island schools be examined separately under different criteria from mainland schools and appropriate local consultation undertaken. This does not impact solely on education but the long-term viability of our community as a whole.

    Thanks and best wishes

    Katrin Bach

  3. Tessa Winstanley Tessa Winstanley
    25th January 2017    

    Having grown up in a small rural community, I have seen first-hand the importance of small schools and their amazing benefits on the education of pupils and the wider community. I have also seen how people are put off staying or moving into a small community where the schools are lost or threatened. I really hope the Highland Council re-consider these changes as I believe it would have a deeply negative effect on the small population of Eigg.

  4. Gemma Kray Gemma Kray
    25th January 2017    

    Is there a petition in place for me to sign?

    • Welcome Welcome
      25th January 2017    

      Not yet Gemma – it’s all happened so fast we haven’t had time to set up a petition. At the moment the most visible way to show your support is to comment on this site or on the Isle of Eigg Facebook page. If the meeting tomorrow (thursday 26th) doesn’t go in our favour, we’ll be setting up an online campaign, with a petition.
      Many thanks for your support
      Best wishes
      Isle of Eigg

  5. 25th January 2017    

    I am shocked at these proposals and just cannot see how they are workable for island communities. Please reconsider a different criteria for island schools head teachers and think about the impact on communities futures and the rights of children to a full education.

  6. Jonny Jonny
    25th January 2017    

    This proposal, taken without any parent consultation or consideration of the uniqueness of island communities, is a genuine threat to Eigg’s growing population.
    Already families moving, moving back or staying here have to contend with the fact that their children essentially leave home at 12 to begin their high school education.
    This proposal would mean that our excellent primary education would be under serious threat which would discourage families with children from remaining on Eigg, new families moving here and leaving the island with an ageing population with all the problems resultant from that.
    Our island has worked for 20 years to reverse centuries of population decline and the successes of these past 20 years are in genuine danger of being undone by a proposal that does not take into consideration the fragile viability of our island communities.
    I urge highland council to reconsider, to consult, and to put a halt to this half-baked and ill-conceived proposal.

  7. Sarah Boden Sarah Boden
    25th January 2017    

    As Stuart has so eloquently outlined above, the implementation of these proposals by Highland Council would be disastrous for the Small Isles. The quality of education for island children would nose-dive, but additionally the trickle-down consequences for these already fragile communities would be immense. I would urge Highland councillors to reconsider this ill thought-out scheme for the islands.

  8. sarah renny sarah renny
    24th January 2017    

    Its vital that we stand against these proposals , its been done in such an underhand way , with zero consultation and shockingly a total lack of consideration for the effect on the island as a whole , its not just and education issue , i feel this will have serious long term reppercussions for the population of the small isles.

  9. Stuart Stuart
    24th January 2017    

    The purpose of education, as we have been led to believe, is to equip a child to socially, emotionally and intelligently face their future. The Management of Schools Proposal (26 January 2017) appears negligent in every aspect of education. Needless to say we are completely opposed to these proposals.

    The Proposal appears to show no educational benefits, mentioning ‘there is a risk regarding the long term sustainability of some of our educational provision’ as though it were an afterthought. Can the Highland Council qualify this risk and indeed the efficacy of the entire project? Perhaps providing the precedent for this model and the thinking behind it – i.e. the educational journals or tests that the model has been based on and information on how the Proposal has been drafted – would be a positive start.
    In addition, this turmoil makes a potential saving of only £750,000 (3.4.2), if we discard the ‘various caveats’, which, similarly, remain vague. We are not convinced this is a model that either manages the financial savings the Highland Council require or manages the educational prowess they seek to build-upon. Indeed, the potential ‘Business Manager’ posts mentioned in 2.3.1 offer more of an inclination on their intentions, which appear to be an attempt to consider the English system of Academies, where education follows a market model.

    There are clear implications with regards to the Law that have been ignored. A headteacher has duty of care for their students. If a headteacher visits a school once or twice a term, it can hardly be said that they are upholding in any way this duty or create any meaningful relationship with island children. An effective school has an effective leader who is present and engaged with student learning. A headteacher often cannot be in one school enough. To increase this to four or five or more seems manifestly short-sighted.
    Island teachers will have less support from a mainland headteacher, which is particularly crucial in an island situation where you are physically isolated. The NHS policy now is to limit their number of staff members in isolated positions, so it is surprising that teachers are not treated similarly. Clearly, teacher’s are our most valuable asset and we find it unbelievable that the Highland Council can treat their staff with such withering inconsequentiality. We wonder what statement they are making to a wider community vis-à-vis attracting employment to remote areas and Scotland’s position as a leader in the educational world?

    With regards to a more ICT based community, we thought we had discussed this with the Highland Council’s previous proposal. To repeat, whilst ICT is used in the island communities, the frequent access problems are very frustrating for adults. For children in a learning situation, it would be debilitating. In addition, parents do not want their children to be dependent on computer learning. They want teaching to provide the best educational outcomes, which face to face teaching supports. In an age where children are increasingly absorbed by screens, are we wanting to reduce their learning experience merely to computer screens too? Not to mention the ongoing extra costs for teacher ICT training in ICT and equipment.

    We are also highly frustrated with the shambolic consultation with parents (and teachers) on these major changes. The first we have heard about it is through article in the Press and Journal last week, completely disregarding point 2.2.1 ‘By taking time and continuing to consult locally…’. As a consequence of the short notice that Highland Council made public their Proposal, it is difficult to make our views known and too difficult to get to any meetings in person. Having recently successful promoted an inclusive headteacher recruitment process and established a new, media-savvy recruitment for Muck, it’s disappointing to return to a Victorian classroom approach of communication. An open consultation rather than a cloak-and-dagger method would have been far more productive. In 3.5.2 the proposal highlights the need ‘to ensure they work for the local context’ and ‘a communication strategy will be required to be developed to ensure all key stakeholders are fully informed’. However, the parent council has not been consulted about these proposals.

    However, the most disastrous effect of this proposal is for the Island itself. New families are the lifeblood of any community. With these proposals, it is unattractive for new families to move into the islands, while a number of existing families would consider leaving should these proposals come into effect, which impacts the whole viability/economy of the islands, a community which currently is positive and growing, effectively reducing the Island to a sea of second homes.
    We understand that this proposal is put forward as a trial, but island schools being lumped-in with mainland schools is not pragmatic. Island communities have their own unique issues, particularly to do with transport and travel. Indeed, less students at Primary schools in the area mean less students going to the High School, negatively impacting on the Mallaig High school and Mallaig community too, ignoring point 4.6 which states ‘the revised provision must ensure sustainable provision for children, families and staff’. To start with, this proposed model immediately removes two children from the school.

    The Small Isles do offer a challenge, but then what part of education and an educational experience is determined by homogeneity? Eigg, in particular, is lauded for its success and individuality, currently gearing-up to celebrate 20 years since the buyout. There is the possibility to make the Small Isles a flagship educational model (especially for those other ‘difficult’ remote schools), but not if there is a half-thought-out model being dumped on a community at the last, Machiavellian moment. It has the hallmarks of a plan that has not even attempted to join the dots, has not taken into account previous educational steps in the Highlands and has clearly not thought about educational thinking.

    • Craig Craig
      24th January 2017    

      Stuart that gave me goosebumps. Very very well said sir..

  10. Craig Craig
    24th January 2017    

    I think these proposals are outrageous and the manner in which they have come about about appalling, you cannot simply spring this upon us at the start of the week only to decide on the following thursday. You obviously think we wouldn’t care, or just roll over and accept? We do care ! And we won’t accept this. I am a father of an 8 month old and whilst he is not in school now , he soon will be along with 3 others in a similar age category. This is not fair to me my partner or my little one . If there is no education we may well have to move . Or educate them ourselves . Which may actually be better. We have young people in our school we have dedicated staff members and a thriving community to go with it. It is truly unique and one of the many reasons why I live here. Why anybody would want to change this completely baffles me. It’s not fair and it’s not right. Who ever is in charge of these proposals seriously lacks a moral compass and is only thinking of saving money, when in fact it won’t. Think of all the private charters that will have to be made. Think of all the charters missed . Our children have a right to an education and you as government or counsellors or whatever you snakes call yourselves are failing them. It will destroy everything

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