More on education

What follows was issued a few days ago by the parent council of Ardrishaig Primary School. At the end are my words of support. All of this went to the full list of councillors.

The Parent Council of Ardrishaig Primary School need it to be known to all elected councillors:

1.       In regards to the Collective Leadership Model put forward by Argyll and Bute education authority we reject the model. We do not want this model presented to the Community Services Committee as the proposal in principle for approval. 

2.       Due to the poor process of engagement taken by the Education Authority and the Council of Argyll and Bute, we are in a relationship of distrust and no confidence in their leadership. 

3.       Due to the lack of evidence from councillors on the Community Services Committee in regards to scrutinising council processes we concluded that councillors stood complicit in the mismanagement of the process of engagement of the collective leadership model and as such we had a relationship of distrust and no confidence in them also.

Please read the following documents so that you may understand the position we have taken for the points above.

Point 1

We have objected to the principles of collectives and executive headteachers.  We disagree that this model offers any educational benefits

·         We objected when it was first proposed in June 2021 (ET Objection APC June2021 and ET Objection APC June2021-cover letter).

·         We objected again when the same principles were presented in November 2021 (ProposalFeedbackAPC).

Point 2

From the beginning of this engagement period we requested a halt until a relationship of trust could be established. The lack of trust, caused by the actions of A+B education authority regarding the process made it difficult to consider that their proposal had been established with an authentic motivation. It was an offer of damage limitation which fell on deaf ears and now we are in a situation where the reputation of the council is at stake.

·         We requested a halt to the engagement process in January (req halt Jan2022 APC- cover letter and req halt Jan2022 APC).

·         Ardrishaig Parent Council were also part of the joint request to halt from the Argyll and Bute Parent Council Network.

·         We objected to the process of engagement and submitted feedback (ProcessFeedbackAPC). 

The ‘proposal in principle’ phrase appeared in communications around the end of January.  We needed to ensure that our parent council, wider communities and other interested parties could understand quickly and easily what we were being consulted on. 

·         We wrote a detailed email to empoweringoureducators to confirm our understanding of the ‘proposal in principle’ (PIP). 

·         The reply we received did not answer our query (PIP reply).

·         We produced our own slide set for ease of communication to our parent body (PIP simplified).

Point 3

Elected councillors should play a key role in the running of the council and the accountability of its processes. We questioned the members of the Community Services Committee as to their scrutiny, monitoring, understanding and knowledge of the process of engagement and found no evidence of any. 

·         We emailed our grievances regarding how the engagement was being carried out and our request to halt to councillors on the Community Services Committee (CSC request to halt).  Our grievances were ignored.  We were told that the engagement would carry on.  Throughout all our communications only 2 of the councillors replied to our email.  Only 1 of those 2 councillors answered any of our queries.

·         We requested that Robin Currie do everything in his power to halt any further progress in April (Councillor Currie26042002).  He replied that he could not.

You will also be aware of documents released under FOI.  In particular, the invitation to tender (Marketing Proposal – ITT) and Stand Marketing Proposal (Stand_ABC_Marketing_Proposal_SP-16-008) validated our relationship of distrust.  They aimed to ‘segment stakeholders’, they wanted ’a brand identity’ ‘designed to influence’ stakeholders as to their way of thinking. Their message would be ‘adapted’ throughout the process to ‘ensure maximum acceptance and buy in’.  Their chosen marketing company, Stand stated ‘the goal is to drive acceptance’ of the concept of clusters and executive heads and to ‘create influential advocates’.  

These strategies are manipulation not consultation. They are dishonest, unethical and immoral.  They consulted pupil councils and children directly with these strategies.

Moving Forward we would ask all elected councillors:

Stand up for democracy.  You are our elected voice and you must have fortitude in your responsibility and duty of care to your electorate.  We have stated our relationship with the education authority and the council, of which you play a part.  Now is the time to realise the enormity of reform that you need to push for – you have much work to do and it will not be easy. If you do not see yourself as being prepared to truly make that commitment, then we suggest you step down now and find someone who is.

Push for mediation between community and council.  As Parent Council chairs we have suggested mediation with the education authority as a way to move forward and rebuild trust.  That will need to happen and you will also have to be part of that mediation.

Every single one of you has to be a Children’s Champion. You may not be the councillor for our ward, but you will be making decisions for our children and all the children of Argyll and Bute. Remember, ‘The Children are our Future’.  As parents we have an obvious vested interest to ensure the best for our children but you do too.

Children don’t play politics and nor should you.  Work together for the greater good.  Political manoeuvrings when making decisions regarding our children should be viewed as unethical.

Please campaign to open up decisions on education to the full council and not a select committee.  Every councillor needs to be accountable to your electorate in these matters.

Be the change. The FOI documents and all the evidence gathered by the Parent Councils throughout this process has revealed council processes and a culture at odds with the world today.  As we said to them, their techniques are old and tired and the world has moved on.  They are ignoring this reality whilst applauding themselves for being innovative (collectives are the same as academy structures in England).  This engagement process has resulted in Parent Councils connecting with Parent Councils, Parent Councils connecting with Community Councils, and communities connecting with elected Councillors.  Be inspired and resolute and good will come from this.

Ensure this and any other process is scrutinised and audited.  It is the role of councillors to scrutinise council processes.  It is essential.  In this case it has been up to the PC’s to scrutinise. We can gather our experience and evidence to assist you in your own scrutiny and audit of the Collective Leadership engagement process.

Consider your personal accountability.  Throughout this process we have asked questions in order to seek integrity and the good intent.  We struggled to find any with council officers or the councillors on the community services committee. Look at the language aimed at manipulation in the Marketing Proposal – ITT and Stand_ABC_Marketing_Proposal_SP-16-008 documents.  If you are not prepared to speak out against that, then you are part of the problem.

When you are being asked to STOP this process, don’t just tow the party line or send a carbon copy reply that it’s not within your power.  Do not try to tell us you are satisfied all is well without qualifying your statement, or give us your assurances that you have the utmost confidence in the advice you are being given by your professional officers.  Understand the responsibility you have accepted as a councillor – it will be the evidence of your personal actions and your active scrutiny in order to make your own, independent judgement and lived experience of the process that will reassure us.

Your actions from here carry the weight of renewing democracy, rebuilding the trust of your electorate, your personal reputation and conscience, and most importantly our children’s future. We wish you all the best for your term as elected councillors and look forward to working with you.

Ardrishaig Primary School Parent Council

My response to all councillors was as follows:

I was copied into this and want to endorse everything in it.

I also want to endorse what Cllrs Kelly and Irvine said recently. They were bang on.

It’s time for councillors to gain control of events. Officers have been in control for far too long. 

It’s clear that huge sums in officer time have been wasted on producing such a low grade, unevidenced and divisive proposal. 

Heads need to roll.

Please get this fixed by binning this nonsense. And never insult your communities again by  using spin merchants like Stand.

Regards  Michael Breslin

By breslin_admin

I am a retired college principal and, for 5 years, a retired former councillor with Argyll & Bute Council. A member of South Cowal Community Council.

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