'Every support' for head in ghost pupils dispute

9th March 2001 at 00:00
The organisation that represents Scotland's primary heads will offer "every support" to the Glasgow head suspended for allegedly inflating pupil numbers to gain extra teachers.

Lesley Dalgleish, head of Mount Florida primary, could face a formal hearing next week. Unconfirmed reports said the roll of the school was claimed to be 280 when it was 30 fewer. Two extra teachers to cover these "ghost" numbers would cost more than pound;50,000.

Maire Whitehead, Glasgow spokesperson for the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, said she was "very concerned about the procedures surrounding the suspension and about the way the whole business suddenly appeared in the press.

"Does somebody accused of murder get that kind of treatment with the implication of guilt before a trial?" The issue has thrown the spotlight on the extent to which pupil registration is manipulated because of staffing pressures. Primary heads say many schools do not remove pupils from the roll until they receive confirmation of enrolment elsewhere.

Education authorities say normal practice would e to mark pupils as absent where there is any doubt at the start of each session and then remove them from the register if they still do not show up by the time of the annual school census in September.

There should be a central register, Mrs Whitehead suggests, so schools do not feel obliged to maintain names on the roll. "It is a major gap in the system."

Mrs Whitehead, a former vice-president of the AHTS, also pointed out that significant numbers of Asian families take children out of school for months at a time to visit relatives on the Indian subcontinent. "Schools do register these children as absent but they are retained on the roll," she said.

Ken Corsar, Glasgow's director of education, said: "Whatever the motivation this action, if true, would have placed unnecessary strain on Glasgow's education budget and on the money available to spend on real children with real needs."

But he believed this was an isolated case.

A main issue for Glasgow is the importance of keeping an accurate register, which could be crucial in any incident.

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