Parents Against Changes to Culbokie Primary Management Structure

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This petition has been created on behalf of the Culbokie Primary Parent Council to make your aware of our concerns around Highland Council’s Management of Schools Programme and specifically how they apply to Culbokie Primary. We would appreciate it if you take the time to read the details below and implore you to support our wishes and protect our children from potential drastic changes. After all they only get one shot at being children!!

The management of schools programme across the Highland Council has been in process since May 2015.  The main vision of this programme is to develop a model of full time Head Teachers with no teaching commitment and sustain education across the Highlands.

The key concerns we have are:

·      More changes to what has been an unstable environment for the last 7 years.

·      Lack of communication and engagement.

·      Contradicting reasoning behind change.

·      Lack of Consultation time.

·      The potential introduction of an unmanageable remit.

·      Based on broad and inaccurate assumptions.

·      Parents feel deceived about proposals.

We  ask you to support our opposition to  this process across the Fortrose Academy ASG and in particular Culbokie Primary School.  Our main reason for requesting your support is for the greater benefit of our children and their education. If this proposal goes through we feel it is going to severely impact on the management of schools and have a detrimental impact on the education provided for our children. 

More Changes

The head teacher and staff at Culbokie Primary are regularly carrying out surveys of all stakeholders and are fantastic at looking inward, outward and most importantly forward.  Recently, staff have indicated that they are extremely satisfied with the current management structure and the current head teacher.  To date, quality improvement reports have all been very positive and, for the first time ever, a parental survey returned a score of 100% extremely satisfied with school management.  Over the past five years staff, parents and pupils have had to endure a considerable amount of change. We have had a rotation of five head teachers in seven years.  We now have a very stable management team that is extremely productive.  Due to the school being at the heart of the local community, there is a real togetherness amongst staff, parents and pupils.  This resilience and togetherness has been tested to the limits recently due to a number of difficult situations which have impacted on a huge number of lives throughout the school and community.  Through the willingness to support each other, and a determination to keep looking forward with positivity, the school and all affiliated with it are now in a place of settlement.  The thought of being subject to another massive change will have a really negative impact on not just the school but the local community.

Lack of communication

Moving on, this particular aspect of the Management of Schools process is devoid of clear communication, vision or any real data.  Throughout this engagement no parent has been given any information on the educational benefits to clustering schools and having one non-teaching Head teacher.  The first communication with parents was received in the form of a letter on 27/11/17.  This was then followed up by a meeting with council representatives on 12/12/17 where it was clearly stated that money was not the main driver in these changes and if they were, we would simply have no say in the restructuring process.  We were clearly told that the status quo could not be sustained.  Parents were then given the chance to respond to a generic email address by 12/1/18. From the outset, parents across the Culbokie catchment have been very clear about the desired outcome to retain our current management structure.  Following on from the initial engagement we were told that draft recommendations for the Fortrose ASG would be circulated to staff, parents and local members for comment during the week beginning 22/1/18.  We did not receive these draft recommendations and it was not until 6/2/18 that we received a letter stating that our clear wishes were not within the scope of the management of schools programme.  We were invited to attend a courtesy meeting about the council response on 8/2/18.  Yes, two whole days after the letter from the Council had been received!

Contradicting reasoning

At the meeting we were told that our wishes from the initial engagement were not ambitious enough and as a result of the recent budget challenges would not save enough money or be sustainable.  Apparently, money is a primary driver now despite it been clearly stated in the first meeting that it was not a significant factor. Disappointingly, parents feel like their hands are tied and ultimately they have no real say in the education of their children.  Despite our clear intentions we cannot have what we want and have been told that our fantastic school and management structure will change because of the financial challenges across the Highland Council at this current time.  At no point in this discussion have we been given any research evidence or data to support the clustering of schools and the positive impact it has on education.  The council will wax lyrical about the current model being unsustainable and the need for all Head teachers to be non-teaching because of that feeling amongst a body of staff.  At this moment they are unwilling to listen to the want and wishes of schools and parents who want to retain the status quo because they see the fabulous job that our teaching staff and management do in giving our pupils a wonderful experience.

Consultation time

Given the latest Government Education Scotland Bill and updates to be made to the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006, we do not feel there has been enough consultation time for parents of all schools and head teachers.  There are a number of parents who only heard about these proposals two weeks before the deadline date. We feel that the process is very rushed and they have not been given the opportunity to really comprehend what is happening.  As a group of parents we held many discussions and it was very clear what our main wishes were and still are.   The main consensus from all parents is for Culbokie to remain a ‘standalone’ school.  Culbokie is currently a hub for extra curricular activities and supports our local community.  This is driven by the strong management team within the school.  Like many educators they go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis.  This commitment stems from the deep, meaningful and engaging relationships they have developed with all stakeholders at the school.  The management team really care about us all.  Despite there being a care of duty, standard for professionalism or a remit for a job, these relationships will never be the same if a Head teacher or manager has to manage schools across an area the size of the Black Isle where some schools are twenty miles apart.  We use the word manage because that is exactly what they will be, managers.  At this time in education we need leaders at all levels that inspire, encourage and support staff, pupils and parents from all walks of life.  Surely, six weeks is absolutely no time to discuss and contemplate changes that will impact on staff, parents and pupils forever.

Unmanageable remit

The GTCS Standard for Leadership and Management outlines the “Professional Actions of Head Teachers” as follows:

 The Key Purpose of Head Teachers - The Head Teacher acts as the leading Professional in a school and as an officer in the local authority.

The Head Teacher also plays a pivotal role within the broader children’s services network.

Head Teachers lead the whole school community in order to establish, sustain and enhance a positive ethos and culture of learning through which every learner is able to learn effectively and achieve their potential. In line with the vision and values of the school.

Head Teachers, working with others: 

(i) Establish, sustain and enhance the culture of self-evaluation for school improvement;

(ii) Develop staff capability, capacity and leadership to support the culture and practice of learning;

(iii) Ensure consistent high quality teaching and learning for all learners;

(iv) Build and sustain partnerships with learners, families and relevant partners to meet the identified needs of all learners;

(v) Allocate resources effectively in line with identified strategic and operational priorities.

(The Standards for Leadership and Management: supporting leadership and management development December 2012)

 Across all of these areas, Head Teachers contribute to leadership for improvement at school and system level.  This remit is a complex and difficult task within one school in one community however to have to do this across 3 is an unrealistic and unmanageable remit for one individual.  The 3 communities that are being proposed are very different and would be very difficult to manage as one.  In the Management of Schools report written by Education, Children and Adult Services Committee, point 5.6 suggested that this proposal would contribute to:

 • The Head Teacher role will be better defined and more equitable across Highland.

• Reduced workload pressure for head teachers.

• Head teacher role will be more focussed on Leading Learning.

 It is of our opinion that this is extremely unrealistic and is going to put major additional workload pressure on Head teachers, which could have impact on their health and wellbeing.  There is no way this will allow the head to be more focussed on Learning and teaching especially with 3 schools that are geographically located 16 miles apart.

 Parents feeling deceived

Finally, as a result of our lack of ambition there is now going to be a proposal put to the peoples committee on 15/3/18 to extend the engagement process.  The idea of potentially having a virtual campus across the whole of the Black Isle was mooted.  Parents feel deceived and backed into a corner because they have made their views clear yet they are simply not being listened too.  We all now have to endure a period of uncertainty and anxiety.  There are no real plans in place, there is no clear timeline and parents have been told clearly that they can contribute to future discussion but Culbokie will not remain a ‘standalone’ school.  Workload and mental health in all walks of life has become a very prevalent issue over the past number of years. None more so than in the public sector.   As you will know, all schools in Scotland have been charged with closing the attainment gap and ensuring equity for all pupils.  The government are supporting schools with large amounts of money through the pupil equity fund.  Through rigorous, time consuming and evaluative data collection and analysis, schools are/have identified how best to do this in their own settings. Very much lead by their head teachers.  A number of initiatives that are currently being put in place to work with pupils who take up their free school meal entitlement are based on nurture & building self-esteem.   These programmes are founded and driven by the head teacher fostering and developing positive relationships with all parents, carers, pupils and staff.  Undoubtedly, increased stress amongst all staff and parents is going to filter down to the pupils.  Our staff will do there absolute best to protect the young people from this but it will grow increasingly difficult the longer this is drawn out. 

We implore you to support our wishes and protect our children from such drastic changes.  After all they only get one shot at being children!!


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