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Directorate turmoil stays under wraps

PERTH and Kinross is refusing to publish an independent consultant's report which the council commissioned to improve the running of its education department.

It is issuing only the recommendations in an attempt to gain feedback from staff, school boards, the unions and the public.

A spokesperson for the authority said it had decided the full report, which followed an investigation by John Dobie, former director of education in Edinburgh, must remain confidential because it included references to individual members of staff. No "sanitised" version would be issued either.

The 17 recommendations make it clear, however, that the department has been in turmoil, following the departure of the tempestuous former director of education, Bob McKay, and his replacement by Bill Frew, a senior social work official.

Among the recommendations are the provision of "support and supervision" for the director and his management team. The report also suggests the directorate should establish a business and communications unit and it should clear up confusion over conflicting responsibilities for geographical areas of the authority as well as functions. Approaches to quality assurnce are also in line for a shake-up.

Mr Dobie's recommendations imply that relationships with heads, parents and local politicians are not a model of their kind.

He urges the council to ensure that heads become much more involved in the department's planning and budget work, to set up an advice and conciliation service modelled on the Edinburgh version to advise parents and deal with complaints, and to improve consultation between the directorate and senior councillors.

Perth and Kinross would not be drawn on the decision to call in Mr Dobie, insisting it was done to prepare the authority for its forthcoming HMI inspection.

A full report is to go to councillors on June 27 following the consultation period. It is expected Mr Dobie will be asked to follow up progress in implementing the recommendations within six months to a year.

Bill Guthrie, district secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, criticised the plans to add culture and the children's services aspects of social work to the education directorate's remit. "This is adding to their portfolio at a time when they cannot cope with their existing workload," Mr Guthrie said.

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