Western Isles aims to combine education and social work

8th July 2005 at 01:00
The Western Isles is to go down the same route as Glasgow and East Ayrshire by setting up learning communities with schools at their heart.

The council has given the go- ahead to combine social work and other related services with education at a local level. Amalgamation of education with social work at department level is also under consideration.

"The schools will be part of a learning community, which will have a local management team consisting of, among others, social work, inclusion staff and integrated community schools, with a headteacher as leader of that team," said Bernard Chisholm, head of service, inclusion and early-years education for the Western Isles.

"Being devolved to the local level, the learning community will be able to directly tailor its services to respond to its local needs. It will allow a much more flexible approach and efficient use of resources."

The overhaul of the service is the culmination of lengthy consultations on integrating early years, inclusion, and integrating children's services, which resulted in four reports published in June.

It is not expected that the service will begin until the council's new chief executive has joined the local authority, although more details about the structure is due in August. "We have looked at various models, and have decided a comprehensive service, with a local unitary management system, would be the best way forward for this authority," Mr Chisholm added.

Once the structures are in place, a headteacher from either a secondary school or the feeder primaries will co-ordinate and manage the unit for an agreed period.

Mr Chisholm suggested the post may be rotated every few years to give other headteachers the experience of running the community.

Meanwhile, the authority is undertaking a study into the impact that combining the social work department with education to form a children's services department would have on the departments and what the implications would be for budgets. A final report is expected before Christmas.

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