Council admits error in Bute schools proposal

Argyll and Bute Council has changed the detail of its proposal to close North Bute Primary in Port Bannatyne due to an inaccuracy in the original papers – and now intends, if the school is merged with Rothesay Joint Campus, to teach 287 pupils in 11 classes instead of 12.

But the authority says the change is “a minor matter” which will have “little or no impact on the ability of the consultees to understand the proposal paper” - and that it therefore has no plans to extend or vary the consultation period for North Bute.

Following our story last month reporting the calculation by the Scottish Rural Schools Network (SRSN) that staffing levels at the amalgamated school would make it the worst-staffed of its size in Scotland, the council issued a notice under section 5 of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act late on Tuesday afternoon, confirming that its proposal contained an inaccuracy.

Two tables in the proposal paper - one detailing the number and size of classes after merger and one the capacity of each classroom - have therefore been significantly amended.

In a covering note to accompany their Notice of Erratum, the authority states: “The use in the proposal paper of an incorrect number of classes in regard to class composition within the tables is considered to be a minor matter.

“The class composition can be correctly shown as 11 class groupings, leaving the remainder of the information in the proposal, and particularly the financial and notional staffing information, unaffected.”

Campus principal Wendy Brownlie has contacted members of the primary school’s parent council in an attempt to “address any fears they may have about our staffing now, or next session” following our story last month on the staffing figures.

Mrs Brownlie told parent council members that staff numbers at Rothesay Joint Campus – of which Rothesay Primary is a part – are calculated according to Argyll and Bute Council’s staffing standards, which take account of number of classes, non-teaching time (so-called ‘McCrone time’) and management time, and have been so for the last five or six years, in agreement with the local negotiating committee for teachers (LNCT).

That statement prompted SRSN chair Sandy Longmuir to contact Mrs Brownlie directly to point out that his organisation has not questioned current staffing levels – only the future staffing arrangements at Rothesay contained in the council’s proposal to shut North Bute.

According to the authority’s closure proposal for North Bute, amalgamation with Rothesay would leave the latter school with 287 pupils and a full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching complement of 13.94.

However, Mr Longmuir’s calculations, based on data obtained under freedom of information legislation, state that the amalgamated school should be entitled to an FTE of 15.

A council spokesperson said: “The correspondence from the principal of Rothesay Joint Campus to the Rothesay Joint Campus Parent Council was specifically in relation to the current school session and that due to start in August 2011.

“The principal made no reference to the amalgamation proposal, as the statutory process will not have been completed by the start of the new term in August 2011, and therefore no decision will have been made.

“As in previous years, the staffing levels in August 2011 will be based on the education staffing standards operated by the council.”