Island-hopping head plan upsets the locals

28th July 2000 at 01:00
PROPOSALS to reorganise the five schools on the Isles of Scilly under one headteacher have caused uproar.

Parents and teachers on the five inhabited islands, 28 miles off Land's End, are annoyed about the local council's cost-saving plans.

With only 258 school-age children out of a population of 2,000, the education authority hopes that by employing one head for its one secondary and four primaries, it will save money on salaries. There would also be just one governing body.

The new "superhead" would spend part of the week at each school, hopping between islands by boat.

At present, one head oversees the secondary and the primary on St Mary's, Scilly's largest island and home to three-quarters of the population. The other three schools have their own head, despite tiny pupil numbers.

St Agnes junior and infant school has eight pupils, while St Martin's primary has six. Both schools employ one teacher who covers the entire syllabus. The other school is Tresco primary which currently has 22 pupils.

Phillip Hygate, chief executive of the Isles of Scilly council, said: "We are talking about optimising all the resources we have and reducing time wasted by having separate management structures in each school.

"We have a real problem here with resources because of falling pupil numbers."

The council spends pound;4,845 a year on each pupil educated, well above the national average of pound;2,782. Teachers and parents say cost is being put before the interests of their children.

Last year 61 per cent of pupils got five A*-C GCSEs, compard with the English average of 47.9 per cent. But a recent inspection report criticised the "unsatisfactory" current system.

Richard Farr, a science teacher at the school, which has 108 pupils, said: "If it isn't working having one headteacher for two schools, how much worse will it be to have one person looking after all five?

"What will happen is that the deputy head in effect does the job of the headteacher, but without the pay or glory.

"Teachers and parents are unanimous in opposing the move to federate the schools and to say there is no love lost between the education authority and the rest of the island would not be an understatement."

Amanda Martin, who has two children at the secondary school and two at the nearby Carn Gwaval junior and infant school, added: "The whole issue has sparked off a lot of bad feeling. The vast majority of parents feel that it all comes down to money and it will be the children who suffer.

"When you live in a community this small, these things get blown up on a scale that wouldn't happen anywhere else."

Another parent said: "The council is basically resorting to bully-boy tactics and threats to make the off-shore schools accept federation. They say if we don't go along with it, they will close us down altogether.

"But we are worried that if it goes ahead, our children will play second fiddle to those on St Mary's and that we will lose the autonomy we currently enjoy. We just can't see any advantage for federation at all."

Contact for comments on the scheme

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