Row over publicity on opting out

24th January 1997 at 00:00
The thin dividing line between actively promoting opting out and giving straight information to school boards is being stretched by a new missive from the Scottish Office, a parent leader has claimed.

Bob Irvine, head of the schools division at the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department, has stepped up the self-governing status campaign by writing to schools about the appointment of Ian Dutton as a consultant. Mr Dutton is former director of education in the Borders.

But Judith Gillespie, chairman of Boroughmuir High school board and former convener of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, has hit back at the latest attempt to encourage more schools to leave local authority control. Fort William primary, the third school in Scotland to opt out, won Government backing for self-governing status before Christmas.

Mrs Gillespie, in a reply to Mr Irvine, states: "I am puzzled by the statement that in due course you propose to distribute the written material explaining self-governing matters which will be produced by Mr Dutton to schools boards. I met Mr Dutton recently and he told me then that the intention was to send the information only to those boards which requested it. Has there been a change of policy or was Mr Dutton mistaken?" In his letter, sent out before the Christmas break, Mr Irvine argues that part of Mr Dutton's role is to "help explain self-governing matters in easy to understand factual terms so that school boards and parents can decide for themselves on a fully informed basis whether applying for self-governing status would be of benefit to their children and the local community".

This will supplement "existing technical material".

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