Stornoway schooling hits legal minefield

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
ONE OF the longest-running disputes over the management of a Scottish school could still be heading for the courts as the Western Isles faces legal challenges on at least two fronts.

The Court of Session meanwhile has still to rule on an application for a judicial review of the council's secondary school reorganisation in Stornoway.

Councillors last week appointed Kevin Trewartha, depute head of Kirkland High in Fife, as rector of the town's new combined school, at a salary of pound;48,405. The 1,000-pupil Nicolson Institute is to merge in August with Lews Castle School which has 164 pupils following vocational courses.

This means that Donald Macdonald, the Nicolson Institute rector, has lost his pound;47,259 job. Mr Macdonald's solicitor has written to every councillor warning he may take the authority to an industrial tribunal, alleging a "blatant breach" of the Employment Rights Act.

Norman Macdonald, the council's education chairman, has in turn suggested the council might have a case for reporting Angus Macdonald, the rector's solicitor, to the Law Society over a letter which he described as "political rather than legal".

The threat of direct legal action comes from Alan Fraser, who has also lost his post as depute at the Nicolson and decided to pull out of the contest for one of several new management posts being created in the shake-up, that of depute head (academic).

The highly unusual promoted post structure also includes a depute head (vocational). Dr Fraser said he was "dismayed at the plans for a dual school which strike at the heart of the integrated approach to education currently taken by the Nicolson Institute in common with almost all secondary schools in Scotland.

"The proposed arrangement is a serious attack on the quality of education currently enjoyed by the pupils at the Nicolson Institute."

Both Mr Macdonald and Dr Fraser have serious reservations about the council's leeting and appointments procedures.

Mr Macdonald's solicitor said he had no doubt, based on QC's advice, that an industrial tribunal would agree the council had breached the legislation in relation to the methods of selection for redundancy and its failure to offer alternative employment. The rector says he should have been the sole candidate for the new post since the head of Lews Castle had opted for early retirement.

But Norman Macdonald, the education chairman, said he had been advised there were no infringements. "If it has to be tested, it will be tested," he told The TES Scotland. "We are quite relaxed about it."

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