24-06-10 Primary School Meeting Update
Last month's meeting at the Primary School with Highland Council managers was in some ways rather disappointing.

The meeting had been called to discuss concerns some parents had with Highland Council's proposal to replace the probationary teacher who started in 2009 with another probationer.

Representing the Highland Council were Graham Nicolls (Education, Culture and Sport Manager) and Bill Couston (Senior Education Officer).

Graham Nicholls set a rather poor image - slouching into the room with his hands stuffed in his trouser pockets. His colleage presented himself substantially better.
[Kinlochbervie Primary School Staffing Meeting]
The parents addressed their concerns regarding a succession of probationary teachers being imposed upon the children - although their opinion of the incumbent teacher was very high.

Whilst it was achnowledged that in larger schools with single year classes they would be taught by a different teacher each year it was counter argued that in the same situation they would still know their new teacher even if they hadn't previously been taught by them. Nicholls acknowledged this.

The question was then raised as to why we couldn't simply keep the existing teacher. Nicholls explained that employment law prevented the Highland Council from doing this.
  • This is in fact wrong.
    So long as the post is advertised and the incumbent teacher applied for it there is nothing in employment law that would prevent the Highland Council from subsequently offering the post to him, assuming it was felt he was the best applicant. This is precisely what happened in the High School earlier this year.
Nicholls then proceeded to justify the imposition of a probationer by explaining that the Highland Council had requested 22 probationers but had in fact been allocated 44, and that they were obliged to find positions for them.
  • He neglected to mention that the Highland Council receives a grant in respect of each of these appointments from the Scottish Executive under the Teacher Induction Scheme - thus saving the council quite a lot of money in the form of teachers wages.
When pressed on the question of whether the appointment of a new probationer was in fact a 'Done Deal' he conceded that it was, and that letters had already been sent out to these probationers offering them their posts.
  • So much for the Highland Council engaging parents in the decisions affecting their school.
When further asked to give an assurance that the school would not receive further probationary teachers each year he declined to do so, stating only that he felt it was unlikely.
  • The conclusion of the meeting was that Kinlochbervie Primary School would be receiving another probationary teacher, against the concerns of parents, and there was nothing to gainsay the potential for new probationers being imposed in successive years.
Side-tracking a little at this point, the subject of probationary teachers finding it difficult to rent suitable housing in the Kinlochbervie area was mentioned. Nicholls agreed it could be difficult but was no worse than for a teacher in Inverness.
  • This statement beggars belief and must question whether he has any knowledge of this subject at all.
The meeting ended soon after, with Graham Nicholls stating how he enjoyed getting across to Kinlochbervie.
  • No doubt a day out at the seaside - paid for by the taxpayer - is an enjoyable alternative to a day spent in the office in Inverness. Read into that what you will.
Some useful information did come out of the meeting, however.

Staffing requirements are sent from primary schools to the Highland Council in February of next year and it has been suggested that parents make their wishes known to the head teacher early in the New Year, 2011.

Of course there is no assurance that the Highland Council will take any heed of parents' wishes. They certainly don't appear to have done so, so far.

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