Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee considered a number of papers relating to the school estate and parental engagement on Thursday (11 October) focused on learning together to achieve the best educational outcomes for children across the North-east.
The Council’s Learning Estates Team has been given the green light to take a strategic, holistic approach to assessing all schools across Aberdeenshire on an area/cluster basis looking at the condition of buildings, the number of school places required (including pre-school and services for pupils with additional support needs, both now and in the future), rural sustainability and area regeneration, staffing and the needs of the wider community.
The first step in this is to engage all elected members in Aberdeenshire during area committees and then meet the chairs of all parent councils for all 152 primary schools in Aberdeenshire. Early next year the plan is to then set up engagement meetings in all council areas to give as many parents, carers, teachers, other school staff and members of the wider community a chance to have their input into the next steps.
Findings and proposals stemming from the engagement and assessments will be taken back to committee later next year. These may include proposals for building improvement and/or new builds, rezoning, where there are opportunities for head teachers to look after more than one school (with very small numbers), mothballing, community utilization of buildings, mergers and extension works.
Members welcomed the paper, recognising the expertise of and the thorough research carried out by lead officers. A suggested amendment by councillor, Charles Buchan for officers to return with more detail on the role of communities in any decision on educational change was voted down with 4 votes to 11.
This comes as a separate paper was agreed to focus on the importance of engaging with parents and carers in achieving better outcomes for children. A draft involvement and engagement strategy for parents and carers has been developed and the intention is to, in time, develop an Aberdeenshire Parents’ and Carers’ Charter through workshops and focus groups.
Another report reflected on changes to the methodology for assessing the suitability and condition of school buildings. The changes are to ensure that all school buildings across Scotland are assessed in the same way and the health and safety of our children and young people remains paramount.
A separate paper approved a review of staffing and management arrangements in primary schools which will report back to committee, along with guidance, at a later date.
Chair of Education and Children’s Services, councillor, Gillian Owen explained: “Both nationally and globally it is recognised parents are the single most important influence on their children’s development, learning and achievement. We also recognise that the school environment our children and young people enjoy and the management of this is vitally important too.
“The reports discussed share that same end goal: to support and improve educational outcomes for children. This isn’t simply about looking at numbers but assessing the needs of children and young people within our communities, and working directly with parents, carers and teachers to ensure the plans we put in place best meet those needs and aspirations.
“The proposals discussed are based on lessons learned at a regional, national and international level. We are proud of the community-focused, pupil-centred approach officers are taking to achieve the best possible outcomes for our children and young people.”
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