Sunday, November 23, 2008

Well, the big news in my world has to be the Full Council on Thursday. Specifically the closure of Westburn primary. A travesty if ever there was one. The vote went to another 29/29 split and the Lord Provost closed the school with his casting vote! Surely another travesty. See below the notes of my speech though it was all to no avail.....

Consultation – widely described as a ‘shambles’.
Initial proposals full of mistakes. Eg 3rd lowest role – then had to admit it was the 14th. Then sent round an erratum changing it to 3rd lowest capacity but this is based on assumptions about accommodation which are also demonstrably false!

Sticking with this for a moment because it is central to the proposal. What are in fact the ICT rooms and Library are not allowed to be counted as general purpose space at Westburn and have been counted in other schools. This is apparently because they don’t have doors on them and it was even suggested that they should move the ICT suite and Library out into the corridor!
Criteria have at best not been intelligently applied with things being worked out on paper without looking at the actual reality in the school.

The condition of the school is portrayed as poor based on a survey done in 2003. The reality is that it has had 750,000 spent on it in recent years including, since that survey a new roof, new boilers, upgraded internal lighting, state of the art disabled toilets, not to mention teaching facilities like Smartboards nursery play equipment …..the list goes on and on…they have even got brand new staffroom lockers and kitchen facilities. The fact is that anyone walking around the school would think it was well equipped, well maintained and very fit for purpose …modern bright and well decorated. Not at all as it is portrayed on the consultation proposals.
Speaking as a teacher myself I know that assessment is for learning not for closing schools. Attainment statistics need to be taken in context and the context in this case is a high number of kids with very challenging backgrounds and home lives.

Westburn is a happy constructive learning environment that parents are happy to bring their children to and the kids are happy to come to. It is seen as a safe and happy place by all including the local community. There have been slurs on the competence of the staff and yet staff at Westburn are involved in and actually delivering in service training across the Region. The school wins awards for example the ‘Green Pencil’ award for Creative writing and the Standard Life Edinburgh award for working with a school in Malawi.

Overall then there seems a huge gulf between the school portrayed in the consultation document and what actually exists. The decision to close this school was based on grossly misleading and downright wrong information. Attempts to rectify these errors have not helped the situation. Objections from far and wide have produced only a digging in of heels by Children and families. This school should never have been proposed for closure, the reasons for closing it are false . The reasons for keeping it open are many. This is a well loved and well resourced school with hard working and dedicated staff and is a vital and central part of the local community. I understand the need for the rationalisation of school accommodation but for the reasons that I and others have stated closing Wesburn is a terrible mistake – don’t do it.

I said more than that but you can get the idea from the above notes.