Nicolson storm keeps on blowing

26th February 1999 at 00:00
THE continuing squabble over merging the Nicolson Institute and Lews Castle School in Stornoway could still be heading for the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

In the latest twist, both the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Professional Association of Teachers are seeking QC's advice about the legality of the Western Isles's policy on the combined school, due to open in August. Lews Castle, the country's only vocational school for secondary pupils, will close and join the Nicolson, which will retain its long-established name.

The EIS questions whether the merger is in fact a takeover. If it is a takeover, the expanded Nicolson would not have to replace the headteacher and two deputes. The authority has already warned senior staff that their posts will be "disestablished".

A council committee was yesterday (Thursday) set to rule on whether senior posts will be fixed-term or permanent and whether the council should by law advertise nationally, appoint internally or headhunt. The Scottish Office is keeping a close watch.

Neil Galbraith, the Western Isles's director of education, said that if employment law took precedence over the school boards legislation the council would not need to advertise the two-year fixed-term contracts. Boards and parents would not necessarily be involved.

In the meantime, Edinburgh lawyers have advised the council to amend an earlier decision dismissing elections to the Nicolson school board. Parent representatives resigned en masse last year, effectively disestablishing the board, according to the council.

But legal opinion and talks with civil servants in the capital last week produced a legislative loophole which will allow vacancies on the disestablished Nicolson board and the Lews board to be filled by election. A joint interim board will be formed.

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