Pilot school sounds warning

11th December 1998 at 00:00
Neil Munro reports on the new hope for change expressed by Glasgow's secondary heads at their conference last week.

Conference delegates heard a warning of testing times ahead from one of the five schools chosen to pilot the Government's new community schools in Scotland.

Alastair Struthers, head of Lochend Secondary in Easterhouse, said that "meeting increased levels of expectation and accountability'' would be a challenge. He added that the school would have to resist the "magic wand syndrome."

Unremitting effort would be required to maintain the school's focus on attainment and to increase parental and community support in an area where male unemployment stands at 60 per cent and 62 per cent of Lochend pupils are on free meals.

Mr Struthers also cautioned against "turf wars" with other professionals such as social workers who would be closely integrated into the work of the school under the Government's one-door approach.

"There is a danger that problem cases could be offloaded on to Lochend so it becomes a magnet school for difficult youngsters,'' he said.

Sixty new community schools are planned over the next three years, backed by Pounds 26 million from the Scottish Office. But Mr Struthers stressed the importance of ensuring there was "a clear focus on the young people themselves,'' despite the flurry of professional activity which would surround them.

Mr Struthers launched a strong attack on sections of the media for its coverage of the Lochend initiative, which was interpreted as acknowledgement that it was a failing school.

He said he was asked on one occasion whether he was happy at receiving an OBE when he was in charge of one of the worst schools in Scotland.

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