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Aberdeen welfare agencies in schools

Aberdeenshire Council, led by the Liberal Democrats, looks set to become the first Scottish education authority to establish "full-service" schools, Neil Munro writes. The concept originated in North America and has already been endorsed by Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State.

Three Aberdeenshire schools - Banff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead academies - have agreed to pilot the idea. If it takes off, all education, health and welfare agencies dealing with children and their families would be based on the school. It may in time be extended to cover housing, employment and careers services.

Michael White, the director of education, said that any new schools built by his authority will be full-service establishments.

A key aim is to break "the culture of failure". But Aberdeenshire also sees scope for addressing teachers' grievances.

Mr White says: "It could be argued that teachers are being asked to take on too many tasks and are expected to deliver too many different agendas. Workload issues tend to focus on the increasing number of tasks which are not strictly educational but absorb a significant amount of teachers' time.

"The provision of welfare and counselling services in schools would free teachers to concentrate on teaching and learning. Teachers would no longer have to be drawn into a social worker role."

Mr White suggests care will have to be taken over professional jealousies and demarcation lines. But John Rankin, the head of Fraserburgh Academy, says this will not be a major hurdle "and it will be my job as rector to ensure problems do not arise".

He believes the full-service school is "the next logical step" after the community school, reflecting the current wider concept of education.

George Milne, head of Peterhead Academy, says the initiative will fit easily into other strategies such as early intervention: "You find it's the same families who always need the support".

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