Education Executive meeting earlier this morning ... agenda here. Item 4 - a deputation concerning potential school rationalisation - caused a bit of a stir.
Not the deputation I hasten to add, who were balanced in what they had to say, but a motion that I moved in conjunction with the item being on the agenda. I'll produce the whole motion below, for ease of reference.
In essence, I simply don't understand why the new Administration hasn't re-formed the old 'Cross Party Steering Group' that was looking at the overall school estate issues? It's going to be one of the most difficult issues for the new Council to face; school rolls are falling and some action is definitely going to be required to address that.
I know it seems counter-intuitive, when the city population is rising, but it is a fact that - in terms of school-age children - there are fewer and fewer projected for the next decade or so. Much better, I would have thought, to try and get a degree of cross-Party and professional (not to mention parental!) buy-in to the whole process? But no, instead the motion was rejected out-of-hand by the Liberal/Nationalist Administration with a bit of a verbal tirade about finances being in such a state and it was all the fault of the previous lot who ran the Council (that included me of course!).
Now, I may be missing something, but potentially closing schools should have nothing to do with finance (or has it??) and should only be contemplated due to falling school rolls - that's certainly were I had always come at this issue from.
So, although it's perfectly fair to have a go about overspends and finances from the previous Administration ... linking that to why you have to close schools - well, it's frankly a smokescreen for having to face-up to difficult decisions which need to be taken due to school-age population decline. They can't blame us for that; surely?
Welcome to the real world of decision-making ...
LABOUR GROUP MOTION
COUNCIL EXECUTIVE MEETING : 19th June 2007
Item 4 – Deputation – Grassmarket Nursery Parents Committee
1. To note that, during 2005, an ‘all Political Party’ agreement led to a ‘Cross Party Steering Group’ being formed to consider and review the strategic management of school rolls. The Steering Group comprised 3 representatives from the Consultative Committee with Parents (including the Nursery sector), 1 teacher's representative, 1 religious representative and 5 political representatives from Labour, Liberal-Democrat & Conservative Groups.
2. To further note the principal aims of the review of school places across the City were directly related to demographics - to match the number of school places in an area to the local population size – and also to providing the greatest level of parental flexibility (at no loss of quality) in educational service provision.
3. To finally note that, due to the withdrawal of one Political Party in late 2006, the ‘Cross Party Steering Group’, which was reviewing the strategic management of school rolls, was disbanded.
4. To agree that the time is now right to re-form such a ‘Cross Party Steering Group’ to ensure ‘all Political Party’ input into any review of the strategic management of school rolls; and more crucially, to ensure full parental and professional input into the process before any final decisions are arrived at.
5. To thus instruct the Director of Children and Families to re-form a ‘Cross Party Steering Group’ comprising representation from:
· All Political Parties
· Religious Groups
· Teaching Unions
· The Consultative Committee with Parents
· All ‘Head Groups’ – Nursery/Primary/Secondary & Special School Heads
… and for the first meeting of this new ‘Cross Party Steering Group’ to take place before the Summer 2007 recess.