More confusion and anger over council plans

The Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Cllr Roddie Mackay has confirmed that the authority is moving to appoint an Executive Head Teacher covering Laxdale Primary School along other schools in the Broad Bay area of Lewis.

By Peter Urpeth
Friday, 30th October 2020, 8:41 am
Leader Roddie MacKay
Leader Roddie MacKay

The move comes after the parent council of the school stated in a social media post over the weekend that they were concerned that the authority planned not to appoint a permanent head teacher to the school, and that they had been seeking clarification from the Comhairle on the matter since June ‘but had not had any’.

The Parent Council said in their post that a meeting was due to take place on Monday evening to discuss the situation with the Comhairle’s Director of Education and Children’s Services, Mr Bernard Chisholm.

Cllr MacKay, (Stornoway North) whose  ward Laxdale school is in, said in a statement: “This is something that has been known for some time. It was discussed in the Chamber and at Community Conversations. We are currently processing job descriptions through the LNC [Local Negotiating Committee for Teachers] and the Director is having dialogue with Parent Councils. 

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“The matter has previously been reported in the press and at a number of Comhairle meetings,” Cllr MacKay concluded.

In a separate statement on the issue, when asked if an executive head was going to cover Laxdale School and those in the Broad Bay Area, and why the move was being made, a spokesperson for the Comhairle said:  “Yes – we can confirm this is the case. Consistent with our policy and for reasons of operational efficiency and effectiveness.”

Fellow Stornoway North councillor, Gordon Murray, who also leads the Comhairle’s SNP group of councillors, said: “The executive heads decision was made in February 2020 in the budget setting process and I, along with my fellow SNP councillors voted against it.

“It did not come up in community conversations that I am aware of.  My concern that Stornoway Primary, the second biggest school in the islands, is to go without a Head teacher.

“I was not made aware of the situation at Laxdale school and I don’t think I am alone in that matter.

“I don’t think it will enhance education on the islands as a school needs a head teacher, a leader in the particular school community rather than one executive head running a number of schools. 

“Unfortunately,” Cllr Murray concluded, “when there was a vote on this, the majority of councillors voted to implement.”

Loch a’Tuath ward councillor John A MacIver, said: “I know that Council agreed by a majority to implement such a decision regarding Primary Schools in areas where pupil numbers had fallen to such low numbers that a Head Teacher was not viable in these instances.”

But in terms of Laxdale School being covered by an executive head teacher along with those in the Broad Bay area where he is a local councillor,  Cllr MacIver said: “This is the first I’ve heard of this proposal, but it may have come up at the last Education and Children’s Services Committee of which I am not a member and was not in attendance.

“However I doubt such a decision would have been agreed without me hearing about it!”