Schools dominate the postbag in the latest Letters to the Editor – February 6, 2013

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READERS have their say on the issues which matter...

Conflicting messages

LIKE many parents in the local area I am increasingly concerned about the conflicting messages coming from councillors and council officers about the so called informal consultation process.

In last week’s Herald Councillor Geekie made a bold statement that schools would not be closed if there was not an educational benefit to our children in uprooting them and moving them to larger schools with larger class sizes.

At a recent meeting with Mr Gordon Currie, Head of Education, one of our parents asked him to explain what the benefits would be?

We all waited to be convinced that this whole process was not just a cost cutting exercise, only to be told that it would be a nice new school building.

We were looking for facts and figures to support the council’s proposal from the man in charge of the council’s education department, only for him to imply that the building and not the teaching staff are responsible for the quality of our children’s education.

As the informal consultation process comes to an end, I can’t believe anyone who has the best interest of our children’s education would consider taking this proposal forward. If the councillors do vote as per party instructions for these proposals without tangible evidence of any educational benefits, it will prove that this was simply a cost saving exercise. I would also challenge Councillor Geekie and her coalition partners to come to my school and explain their position.

John Watson,

Chair, Parent Council,

St Agatha’s Primary.

Consultation concerns

AS a grandparent of a child at Merkland School, my concern regarding the schools consultation is that East Dunbartonshire Council has distributed questionnaires to random addresses - the majority going to pensioners and people it does not concern.

Therefore, any results from these questionnaires are not going to show a true reflection of how parents and families feel about the proposed mergers.

I have been trying to get a hold of the questionnaire for distribution in my grandson’s school and have been told by library staff that I can’t get more than 2.

I went to Bishopbriggs Library today and the staff have been told to withdraw all questionnaires!

Now I know that the closing date was February 4 and that any late questionnaires will still be taken into account for a few weeks after (as quoted by an ED member at a recent meeting in Merkland School), so I have to ask why? We do live in a democracy after all.

Is this a blatant attempt to manipulate any results?

Concerned grandparent,

(via e-mail).

Parking concerns

AS most parents with children at Craighead Primary School in Milton of Campsie will know, the parking situation up there at school pick-up and drop-off times is nothing short of horrendous.

Cars are not just double, but triple-parked in the village hall car park.

They are parked on double yellow lines in School Lane, as well as in the yellow box outside the school and up on the pavement across from the school.

There are cars attempting to access the car park at the library and community centre at 3 o’clock (some are even attempting to reverse in) as the children are rushing out.

They are expecting children as young as five to jump out of their way. Included in these offending cars are taxis under the East Dunbartonshire Council schools contract.

Recently as a result of one of these taxis arriving at the school after 3pm and not paying proper attention to the children leaving school, and the illegal parking of a parent on the school run, my 10-year-old daughter was almost knocked down.

I shudder to think of the consequences had I not been there to shout at her to step back.

These drivers are a danger not only to my child, but to every child at Craighead Primary School.

I am well aware of the head teacher’s continued efforts to combat this parking problem, but her pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

I would urge parents, grandparents and taxi drivers to please consider their parking habits before there is a serious accident.

I would also like to suggest that these taxis on a schools contract should be at the school BEFORE the 3 o’clock bell goes.

Lydia Hutchison,

(concerned parent).

Support for each other

IN response to the Woodhill resident who feels that Auchinairn is not a safe environment for kids (Letters, January 30).

The public houses in Auchinairn do not affect the school.

This is an extremely narrow minded opinion. Do you think the teachers take the kids for a pint at lunch time? Pubs are busier on a Friday and Saturday night when the kids aren’t at school.

I’m sure loads of parents from Woodhill go to a pub sometimes or have a drink at home.

The majority of chemists in Glasgow have methadone and it has no affect on young kids at primary school.

You can’t keep your kids away from main roads forever. I have taught my kids to cross quiet and busy roads, it’s fairly simple.

You cannot judge Auchinairn Primary until you come and visit.

The kids are well behaved, happy, polite and educated. Auchinairn kids are going to the same high school and Bishopbriggs Academy got the best report in Scotland.

If Auchinairn kids are that bad this would not have happened.

Woodhill residents need to realise that Auchinairn is not a bad place. It may have some issues but the majority of people are hard working, good people and want the best for their kids.

It’s how you bring your own kids up that matters.

The schools should be supporting each other so when they do merge the kids are friends and not enemies.

Auchinairn resident,

(Name and address supplied).

Call for council to reassess options

THE SNP group on East Dunbartonshire Council has questioned some of the facts in council leader Rhondda Geekie’s statement in last week’s Herald (January 30) in relation to the current review of the primary school estate.

What the Labour/Tory/Lib Dem administration on the council want to do is to leave the public with the impression that all councillors support this questionnaire and the informal consultation, but nothing could be further from the truth.

At the November 15 and December 10 council meetings the SNP and the Independent councillors all voted against this flawed process.

Unfortunately we lost the vote 14 to 10 when Councillor Gotts, the Liberal Democrat Convener of Education, whipped his colleagues into line by encouraging them to show political courage and force through the administration’s agenda.

Although they won the vote by dint of numbers I don’t think they won the argument if the public response is anything to go by.

In our view the Parent Councils, the wider parent groups, community organisations and the local elected members together with the education professionals on an individual school by school basis should have met to discuss options and aspirations for their school and community.

For the past four years the council has failed to put any capital investment into East Dunbartonshire’s primary schools pending the outcome of the schools estate review.

A previous attempt by councillors to carry out a review of the primary schools failed to achieve any positive outcome, resulting in nothing being done. I have questioned the figures for savings quoted by Councillor Geekie and have written to the Head of Finance in EDC for confirmation of how the figures were actually calculated.

SNP councillors did not agree with the direction the review has taken.

We believe the review is flawed for the following reasons:

* The review is being rushed through and has not been worked out in detail

* The review has no meaningful engagement with parents and school Parent Councils

* Information was late in being sent out and lacks the depth necessary for important decisions to be made about the future of our schools and to help parents respond to the council’s questionnaire

* There has been a substantial failure to answer questions about current proposals

* The initial stakeholder consultation was restricted with only one representative allowed from each Parent Council

* The 106 options from the stakeholder engagement meetings (76 people attended) were cut down to just 13, with no further consultation/involvement with parents

* There has been a failure to explain that there will be no investment in remaining schools – the only investment is for new build and merged schools

* Refurbishment has been ruled out with no consideration given to where this might be possible in some schools

* Educational benefit is quoted as being one of the aims yet there is little or no explanation as to what exactly the educational benefits should be

* Assumption has been made that a 650 + pupil size of school is desirable

Bishopbriggs Academy is being used as an example of what can be achieved.

Will their shining example be repeated at primary school level simply by building a new school?

If so, what happens to those primary schools which will have no new build and no new capital investment – will they be left to wither on the vine?

We re-iterate our call for Labour, Tory and Lib Dem councillors to take a step back, to reassess all available options, to provide all the relevant detailed information required, and to work with the Parent Council Forum and parents across East Dunbartonshire to find a solution which has community support and which offers a genuine way forward.

Councillor Ian Mackay,
SNP Group Leader,

East Dunbartonshhire Council.

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