THIS week's Councillor Column is written by Cllr Lorna Douglas (SNP, Helensburgh Central).

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I WAS delighted that Argyll and Bute Council’s controversial education change programme was paused at a meeting of the authority’s community services committee recently.

The programme is now until such time as meaningful consultation and evidential data is gathered, to be presented to members at a future meeting.

The education report proposed strategic change in some areas of Argyll and Bute, with the introduction of ‘cluster schools’ spanning all sectors of education from 3-18 and overseen by an executive head.

It created a barrage of emails from parents opposing the plans, as no consultation had been carried out ahead of the report with parents, staff and most importantly our pupils.

Not even councillors who are not members of the ruling administration of Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and independents knew about it.

READ MORE: Argyll and Bute education change plans paused over consultation concerns

Shared headship, especially in small rural schools, is one thing, but having only one head teacher for up to seven schools ranging over nursery, primary and secondary is quite another.

Schools, large or small, are of vital significance to any community, providing a sense of belonging and identity that builds resilience and nurtures pupils as well as learning. This helps our young people develop their full potential in life and in turn make constructive contributions to our communities and to wider society.

To achieve this, I believe we need local school head teachers, with whom pupils and parents can access and identify with as being part of their community, and not a removed and purely strategic ‘executive head teacher’.

This has been particularly crucial over the last 18 months of the Covid pandemic and the challenges that have been, and continue to be, faced by every school in Argyll and Bute in engaging with pupils and families.

I was told this was not a cost cutting exercise by the council, and that the new approach will encourage more teachers into the area for better career progression. But I fail to see how this would be the case.

Doing away with multiple head teachers and replacing them with one executive head is not allowing better career progression, it is effectively removing a whole layer of management – just like the removal of some subject specialist principal teachers and replacing them with faculty heads. These moves are driven by financial needs and not education needs.

As a council, Argyll and Bute is an employer as well as well as a service provider for our communities, and it is crucial that all our voices are heard before any such strategic proposals.

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