Local MSP Jackie Baillie organised a meeting on Monday 29 June for local parents to discuss concerns about plans to reduce teacher numbers at five Helensburgh and Lomond primary schools.
Argyll and Bute Council’s Community Services Director, Cleland Sneddon, and Education Manager, Anne Paterson, had agreed to meet parents after figures obtained by Jackie Baillie revealed plans to reduce the overall number of teachers in Helensburgh and Lomond by the equivalent of almost five full-time posts. Primary schools in Luss, Rosneath, Kilcreggan, Garelochhead and St Joseph’s in Helensburgh will be affected.
Parents expressed their concerns about the increasing use of composite classes, particularly multi-composite classes which merge pupils from three or more year groups into one class. There was a perception among parents that classes containing pupils with a wider range of age groups and abilities would be more difficult to teach and reduce opportunities for one-to-one support. Parents were particularly concerned about the impact on provision for children with additional support needs.
Parents from Kilcreggan, Garelochhead and Rosneath Primaries also expressed their disappointment that class sizes were increased to just short of the statutory maximum of 25 for composite classes. As a consequence, there will be no spaces in Primary 5 at any school on the Peninsula and there are concerns that this would make it more difficult to attract young families to the area and reverse the trend of depopulation. Officials said that the Council has a legal duty to register any pupil who lives in the catchment area and that additional registrations over the course of the year could be accommodated by changing the composition of classes and adding a teacher if needed. However parents questioned the wisdom of disrupting pupils’ classroom arrangements in the middle of the year when it is possible to anticipate growth in the school roll.
Mr Sneddon confirmed that all of the staff at local schools identified as surplus have been redeployed to fill vacant posts. This means that there will be no additional resources for the supply pool in Helensburgh and Lomond to provide emergency cover for teacher absences as was previously thought to be the case. In essence there will be a net loss of 5 teachers from the Helensburgh & Lomond area.
While the officials restated their commitment to continue listening to parents, they confirmed that Argyll and Bute Council would not maintain this year’s number of teachers unless more pupils registered at the affected schools in the coming months.
“I think it’s important that local parents have the opportunity to sit down and explain their very real concerns in person so I am pleased that Argyll and Bute Council agreed to this meeting.
“It is hugely disappointing that the Council is planning to cut teacher numbers in Helensburgh and Lomond while increasing them elsewhere in Argyll and Bute. There will be a net loss of almost five full-time teachers from our area and these teachers will not even be used to relieve shortages in the local supply pool as we were previously told. Children in Helensburgh and Lomond deserve better and I am determined to stand alongside local families who are opposing these cuts.
“I have already had a preliminary meeting with Angela Constance, the Scottish Government’s Education Secretary, and I am pleased that she has also agreed to meet parents during the summer holidays