Thursday, August 16, 2007

26 educational establishments in 8 months

It's quite breathtaking - the new Lib/Nat Council Administration (which was only formed with the acquiescence of the Tories remember) - has just confirmed its proposing to close 26 educational establishments (6 Nursery Schools, 13 primary Schools, 3 Secondary Schools and 4 Community Centres) across the city ... ALL consultation on which is to be completed within eight months. Incredible.

All this from a collection of Lib-Dems, in particular, who spent every week of the last eight years criticising us for not consulting properly? Quite incredible.

We did offer an all-Party approach to this way back in mid-June ... see earlier post here ... which was rejected at that Council Executive meeting and again at the later 28th June Full Council meeting. So, several months have gone by with no cross-Party input whatsoever; and worse still, no professional or stakeholder input as we had proposed. And there's still no proposal, even at this stage, to properly involve all stakeholders.

As I've mentioned before - I'm not opposed to the 'principle' of rationalising the school estate when there is substantial, and long-term, over-capacity in the system ... but the way this is all being put forward is ill-considered and, frankly, undemocratic ...

... there's actually a few paragraphs in the report, which is going to Full Council next week, that seek to instruct the Council Secretary to 'corral' deputations from schools and organisations into an appropriate Education Committee meeting, thus not allowing deputations to make any multiple requests to be heard at different meetings of the Council - it's a breach of the principles of free speech!

... and it's gets worse, and a little farcical ...

Here's why - because the 'new' Education Committee only meets every eight weeks, the Lib/Nat Administration are inserting extra meetings to allow it to meet every four weeks, and asking the Convener to ensure that Standing Orders are relaxed to allow the 'corralled' deputations to have extra time and a two-way discussion with the Committee Members. All well-and-good in itself ...

... but now, guess what met every four weeks, had a much more informal setting than a traditional Committee, and often had dialogue between members of the public and elected Members? That's right, the Children and Young People's Scrutiny Panel which has just been unilaterally scrapped (with ZERO public consultation) by the shiny new Lib/Nat Administration.

It would be funny, if it wasn't so serious.

And worse than all of that - there is absolutely nothing new, to offset the closures ... I posted before on this here ... and I'm afraid to say that there does indeed appear to be a complete separation between the rationalisation programme being proposed and any new third-round of building programme - to me, that's unacceptable and means that we're being asked to agree 26 establishment closures with NO guarantee whatsoever of any further new school building to assist that process. A far cry from what has gone before.

And some would have you believe that local politics doesn't matter ... well, voters in Edinburgh may want to disagree at the end of this process.

4 comments:

John Wallace said...

Andrew,

Colin MacKay from EIS has just been on Scotland Live with your colleague Mrs MacLaren and said that the report was excellent and too late in coming. He did mention that he had reservations about some of the nursery closures.

He said because of the high turnover in teaching that he wasn't too worried about his members as their is a lot of normal wastage through career changes and retirement.

You were Executive Member for C & F so you know the figures - indeed did you not have a huge departmental deficit of about £8 million last year.

The unions seem to be taking the side of the Liberal Democrat/SNP coalition and not on the side of Labour. Is Labour's grass roots 'lack of' support now permeated into the unions?

Also with Labour having been the brunt of so many leaks in their last administration - why, oh why, would the city's Labour leader leak the info to The Scotsman yesterday? Would it be nimbyism because one of his local schools made it to the list?

Daily I understand more and more why people don't go out to vote. I am afraid your chosen profession is treated with huge derision and major distrust by the people you claim to represent.

Andrew said...

John

Thanks for the comment - I take your point about the standing of politicians ...

... what can I say; I'd hope you would agree that many are hard-working and sincere, others less so - a reflection, in many ways, of wider society. That's representative democracy, and for all it's flaws, I'm still committed to supporting it and working within it.

On the issue of school closures - I am aware (obviously) of the historic situation, but this is all being pressed through in 8 short months ... 26 establishments in 8 months!

I genuinely, genuinely think it's ill-considered and somewhat rushed - I've blogged extensively on it recently and can only ask that you follow the links in this entry to see the totality of my argument.

By all means, disagree with me - but do believe I'm genuine in thinking this is being mis-handled; because I DO think that, and it's my job to say so.

Andrew

Anonymous said...

What an utter mess and no wonder that the council staff are going on strike.

The citizens of Edinburgh should support this strike action for as long as it takes

Andrew said...

Anonymous

Thanks for your comment. I hear what you say about the strike, but please don't forget that it has arisen over the ongoing revenue pressures and is not about the school closure programme.

I've posted on the ongoing revenue pressures before, and if you follow some of the links in this entry you'll pick up my main points ...

Thanks again for the comment.

Andrew