Helensburgh Community Council were asked for a response to the "Empowering our Educators" consultation process. This is a copy of the letter that was submitted to Argyll & Bute Council on the 18th March.
In order to be informed on the proposal, the Helensburgh Community Council (HCC) has attended online presentations about Empowering our Educators run by Argyll & Bute Education Department; and the Parent Council Q&A session held by Hermitage Academy with representatives from the Central Team behind the programme answering questions from parents. We also invited representation, discussion and analysis from the community at our most recent monthly Community Council meeting. This has given us an awareness of the background to the consultation and the views and concerns of the community. We now exercise our statutory duty to represent these views and concerns to the local authority.
The HCC shares the overall general criticism from the local community of the current consultation. The consultation seeks agreement in principle to a proposal that has no supporting data and a complete lack of information on the modelling of a collective. It gives no detail on which schools might form collectives in Helensburgh. In the material presented so far in either written form, video, or public online discussion, there is considerable emphasis on the importance of leadership and much less on the educational benefits and improvements a collective model should be focused on as a priority.
The process and timing of the consultation is unfortunate. Schools need a chance to regain their stability in the post-pandemic period and it is unclear why this consultation has been undertaken by Argyll & Bute at this time. The Council seems to be alone among other local authorities in promoting such restructuring and in such a rush. This begs the questions, Why was it developed? and Who authorised it? There are also a number of Government reviews and reports in the pipeline. Their publication may affect this consultation, which suggests the timing of this consultation is premature.
No evidence has been presented that the new leadership structure will improve the education of pupils. There will be no reduction in class size; the curriculum will stay the same; and improved attainment plays no part in the overall consideration in the requirement for change.
The consultation makes considerable play on the fact that the proposed system will be cost-neutral. Without evidence it is unclear how this can be achieved. The recruitment of Executive Heads inserts another layer of management at a cost. Freeing up Heads of School from teaching duties implies additional cost of extra teaching staff to cover classes previously taught by the Head Teacher. If there is extra money available to pay for this, it would be better spent in employing extra teaching and classroom assistant staff, to reduce class sizes and increase IT resources.
It is unclear where this proposal sits within the recent Scottish Government’s introduction of Regional Improvement Collaboratives (RICs). The proposal seems to have been created to resolve the same issues RICs are intended to resolve. The aims of both are parallel and overlapping. Quoting from the Scottish Parliament website, RICs will:
- provide educational improvement support for practitioners;
- facilitate collaborative working across the region;
- Take a regional approach to supporting staffing challenges, including recruitment and retention; and
- Work with local authorities and other partners to support wider collaborative working across the ‘system’, including education, social work, health, Community Planning Partnerships and others to ensure that together, ‘we get it right for every child’.
There are six RICs in Scotland. Argyll & Bute is in the one called the Northern Alliance, which includes Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland Islands Councils.
The HCC has avoided the myriad of technical educational concerns and points of issue that the consultation has unleashed. The lay person is not an expert on educational jargon or the latest theories in education, which places considerable onus on the educational professionals, who are presumably behind this proposal, to justify their case beyond doubt. This has obviously not happened within the Helensburgh community.
The consultation on the subject is flawed. It has presented no evidence or data on the proposal to allow communities and Parent Teacher Councils to make a judgement; e.g. “…developed by educationalists and Head Teachers from the proven successful ways of working from existing school clusters, shared Headships and 2-18 schools.” – No evidence on this has been given.
Helensburgh Community Council is not the only community body to harbour deep reservations on the consultation process and a concern on the lack of engagement to examine the whole situation in detail. No one in our community has expressed any support for the proposal. There is obviously a deep faultline running through the entire process.
The questions listed in the consultation survey appear to be biased towards a desired outcome rather than encouraging a free expression of view. This may diminish the objectivity of the community response.
This highly unsatisfactory consultation provides no basis for judgement by either the community at large or the local government decision-making process. The proof of this statement lies in the widespread opposition and disbelief it has caused throughout our community. It is therefore recommended that the consultation be withdrawn until the necessary data and educational argument has been assembled in order to make a case that will stand up to public scrutiny.