Dumfries splits support services from education

5th June 1998 at 01:00
A MAJOR council shake-up in Dumfries and Galloway is likely to strip the education department of its support functions, which could ultimately result in savings of pound;500,000. No compulsory redundancies are planned.

Its executive committee has already agreed in principle to "disaggregate" non-core aspects of education and disperse them to other council departments. Thus education staffing will be transferred to personnel, school transport to the environment department, school meals to commercial services and financial services to the finance department.

A special meeting of the education committee will be held shortly to discuss the changes after this week's meeting ran out of time.

The way was paved by the early retirement of Ken Macleod, the director of education. Fraser Sanderson, the head of primary and pre-school, has taken over as acting director.

Although council chiefs are at pains to emphasise that these moves do not represent a downgrading of education, there are clear hints that the service is still regarded as too much of a law unto itself.

Ian Smith, the chief executive, says in a report to councillors: "Although corporate working has eroded this situation, the education department remains, broadly speaking, a discrete, self-sufficient enclave within the council. The service agenda is largely determined in Edinburgh and its flexibility of operation circumscribed by statute which includes teachers' salaries and conditions of service. These are de facto statutory."

But Mr Smith makes it clear that the new management structure has been shaped by the demands of the Government's "best value" policy for council services and the advent of a Scottish parliament.

His report stresses that it is essential to view the changes against that backdrop - not as "the potential deletion of the integrity and professionalism of the core education service."

The council would continue to support the director of education, now restyled "director for education", as the leader of a major professional service.

Mr Smith adds: "If education were to cease to be a local authority function, it may be beneficial to demonstrate that support services can be organised and delivered by a local council and do not depend on the existence of a traditional education department."

Future changes may include a re-examination of the boundary between education and social work.

In his report to the education committee, Mr Sanderson set out the three main functions of his department as strategic planning and policy making, staff and curriculum development and quality assurance.

Mr Sanderson confirmed that instrumental instruction, adult education, outdoor education and swimming - all defined as "non-core" activities for delivering education - would be reviewed in due course to decide how they are to be managed.

Leon McCaig, education vice-convener, said: "The changes will free up the time of the directorate to concentrate on the main tasks. They spent a great deal of their time on peripheral matters."

The proposals mean the council will avoid spending around pound;100,000 on the education offices at 30 Edinburgh Road, the long standing base for school administration in the south-west. The council plans to sell the property once staff are moved out. A substantial chunk of the other savings will come from eliminating posts. Redeployments, natural wastage and further early retirements will avoid compulsory redundancies.

Nosdumf2 Leon McCaig, education vice-convener, said: "The changes will free up the time of the directorate to concentrate on the main tasks. They spent a great deal of their time on peripheral matters" The proposals mean the council will avoid spending around pound;100,000 on the education offices at 30 Edinburgh Road, the long-standing base for school administration in the south-west. The council plans to sell the property once staff are moved out.

A substantial chunk of the other savings will come from eliminating posts. Redeployments, natural wastage and further early retirements will avoid compulsory redundancies.

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