Disgruntled parents of pupils at a North Lanarkshire primary are campaigning against proposals to create a shared head teacher role for their school and its related secondary.
Chryston Primary has been without a head since the previous post holder retired in December 2020 and has since been overseen by the post holder at campus neighboring Chryston High – with council officials now seeking to make the joint arrangement permanent.
Families say the model will create an unmanageably large and wide-ranging super-school of more than 2000 youngsters aged four to 18 and that it has already “created a huge amount of upheaval and disruption”; but North Lanarkshire Council says it will help “attract high-quality candidates” to the role and introduce a valuable “integrated approach” to schooling.
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Chryston Primary families have collected nearly 1,500 signatures on an online petition against the proposals and have more than 450 members in an active Facebook group working to outline their opposition and concerns about the plans.
They are planning to stage a demonstration march in their home area next week, followed by a protest outside North Lanarkshire’s civic center ahead of the full council meeting taking place next Thursday.
Parents’ group spokesperson Levi White, who has children in Primaries Two and Five at the school, set up the “kids before cuts” petition after parents discovered last month that the schools were set to become North Lanarkshire’s first multi-establishment leadership model, saying : “We feel it’s being imposed on us and isn’t the right fit for Chryston.”
She told Lanarkshire Live: “We’d been told that the high school head teacher would cover both schools on an interim basis while they found a replacement, but now this plan seems to have evolved behind the scenes and almost unknown to parents.
“Most were unaware of what the council is trying to implement and it’s been done with no prior consultation; we hadn’t had any form of engagement but from our own survey which has a massive response, 98 per cent feel this model will have a detrimental effect on children.
“You’d be looking at a roll of at least 2500 pupils between the two schools – how can somebody know and look after all those kids, build relationships and look after safeguarding and social issues? That can’t be done adequately by one person when they’re struggling to recruit just now.”
The two schools currently share a campus on Lindsaybeg Road, but the primary school will be moving to new premises next year as its current building is too small to accommodate its rising pupil roll.
Levi continued: “We feel having a high school head in charge of a primary school isn’t right as it’s completely different – and if it was a primary teacher running the high school, they aren’t trained to work with kids aged 16 and 17.
“The parents there should have their say but a lot of the secondary parents are very unaware of what’s happening, and all the other feeder primaries for Chryston High should be consulted, as it would affect them when they go to high school and have a head teacher who’s only there half the time.
“Other schools which are being used as an example of this are tiny; the biggest has 350 between the two schools and we understand that it would work for smaller and rural schools, but Chryston is one of the biggest suburbs and has a different demographic.
“The teachers we have are amazing, genuinely brilliant, but they don’t have the support they should have as there’s nobody leading learning and pushing the school forward; and it’s having a detrimental effect on children as there’s no fun stuff like discos or trips and they feel it’s lost that buzz.
“North Lanarkshire should be trying to show that this model will work but nobody we’ve spoken to thinks it would be a good idea; they plan to implement this in school clusters all over the area and a main driver is cost savings, which is disappointing to hear that it’s being put before getting it right for every child.”
Councilors gave cross-party agreement to the introduction of multi-establishment headship posts in May 2020, and officials say the model including combined primary and secondary headships is already “successfully” in place in other local authority areas.
A North Lanarkshire spokesperson said: “Following the primary head teacher’s retirement at Chryston, we were unable to appoint a replacement. We agreed that the secondary head would assume the head teacher role of both schools as a short-term solution. [and] are currently undertaking a consultation to explore the possibility of implementing the full multi-establishment headship model across the two schools.
“This proposal is subject to a current and ongoing consultation which involves engaging with parents/carers, pupils, staff, partner services and community members. No decisions will be taken on the future leadership of the two schools until the consultation closes [and] we would encourage all parents to take part in the online survey which has been developed to support the consultation.
“Like many councils, we have found head teacher recruitment challenging; such leadership models are a way to attract high-quality candidates [and] are also capable of being a way forward for our more able and experienced school leaders.
“Curriculum data for session 2020-21 shows that pupils at Chryston Primary continue to perform well against local authority and national average figures, in line with or above local authority and national average performance levels in almost all areas; [and] in this period, attainment in Chryston High School has continued to improve.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.