Return to the grass roots

THE newly elected president of the Scottish School Board Association, Alan Smith, shows how far the SSBA has moved from its original remit in his vision of it as an organisation to "represent" school boards in Scotland and at ministerial level ("School boards give errant leadership a final warning", TESS, May 26).

Had he been present at the original launch meeting he would remember the overwhelming resistance among school board members to the establishment of any kind of umbrella organisation as a representative mouthpiece.

What was needed and supported was a body which could provide relevant and up to date information, facilitate communication between school boards in different parts of the country and highlight good practice wherever it could be found, not dictate from on high. Membership was to be entirely voluntary.

Not being a school board member at the time I did not continue my involvement with the fledgling organisation, although as one of Ann Hill's former colleagues in the Parents' Coalition I supported the initiative and attended the first two meetings in a consultative capacity. But the school board to which I was subsequently co-opted was a founder member as the first Aberdeen school to be involved.

Although none of its members have felt inclined to stand for the SSBA's exective, this school board has continued its membership despite reservations at times over the organisation's direction, activities and relevance, on the basis that it would be allowed to find its feet.

To our surprise last year our subscription was returned having already been paid by the local authority in a package deal with SSBA for school board training, which includes group membership for all school boards in the area.

Following the shenanigans of the past few months the board decided at its latest meeting to write to the education director, with copies to other secondary school boards in the area and our own feeder primary schools, requesting reconsideration of the SSBA group membership arrangement, as it undermines the autonomy of school boards and removes their right to choose how they wish the views of their respective school communities to be represented.

The current upheavals may be enough to propel the new executive to return SSBA to its roots and transform it into a grassroots-up rather than top-down organisation. But as the initial deviation was already apparent at the first steering committee following the original launch

and after nine years under the same leadership, regrettably I "hae me doots".

Diana Daly

Beaconhill Road



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