Schools Consultation Meeting…

I just saw a post on the ‘Save Posties Park’ Facebook about the impending schools consultation meeting and it has prompted a wee blog entry…

Any education authority proposal to relocate a school is subject to legislation under The Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010.  One of the demands of this Act is that the authority must hold a public meeting to discuss the proposal.

The public meeting to discuss the proposed relocation for Our Lady and St Patrick’s (OLSP) school is to be held on Wednesday 23rd October 2013, at 7:00pm at OLSP in Castlehill.  If you believe that moving the school to Posties Park is a bad idea, it is very important that you attend this meeting and show solidarity for the Save Posties Park campaign.

In order to have a better understanding of what happens at these meetings, I went along to the recent Bellsmyre schools consultation meeting, and I’ll give an overview here of the format and process – I reckon it’s safe to assume that the OLSP meeting will follow suit….

The meeting was chaired by Terry Lanagan, Executive Director for Education, and I’m fairly sure that he will also chair the OLSP meeting.  It is important to stress that Mr. Lanagan is NOT impartial in this matter, and has very clearly and publicly voiced his preference for building the new school on Posties Park.  Consequently, it will be very important that there is an accurate and unbiased record kept of the events of the OLSP meeting; I will certainly take notes, but it would also be good if anyone asking questions on the night keeps a note of their own questions and any answers given.

Also present at the Bellsmyre meeting were Laura Mason, Head of Service for Education, David Byres, who I believe is the Council’s quality improvement guy and Craig Jardine, Corporate Asset Manager.  Only Terry Lanagan and Craig Jardine addressed the audience during the meeting.  The others were taking notes of any comments or questions.

The meeting opened with Terry Lanagan giving an overview of the process and legislation underpinning the event, and then making some dramatic statements about outcomes, including “I can guarantee you that you’ll see an improved educational experience if this proposal goes forward.”  We can probably expect similar statements on 23rd October, but polarizing the options (Posties = Good, current site = Bad).

A register was sent around the audience, capturing names and reasons for attending. This information is apparently used in the final report, so it would be good if anyone attending on 23rd could identify themselves as a ‘Save Posties Park Campaigner’ where appropriate.

Terry Lanagan explained that he will prepare the final report.  We can only hope that he will suppress his openly expressed bias and produce a completely accurate and objective document.  He stated that he has a member of his team working exclusively on compiling all the data relating to the schools consultation.  All your letters, emails, phone calls and verbal comments at the meeting will be captured on a spreadsheet, and this will be summarized for the final report.

You should be aware that the report will be focusing on the educational benefits and drawbacks of each site option.  This means that a broad swathe of the very valid objections that the Save Posties Park campaign has raised will barely be given consideration in the context of this report. However, in terms of the bigger picture, and the public awareness campaign, all perspectives are important.  At the meeting, it may well be the case that Mr Lanagan minimises or diverts any comments we make that aren’t immediately attributable to educational aspects, but I believe it is important that we raise all of our objections, so that these are a matter of public record.

The main part of the meeting at Bellsmyre was given over to questions and comments from the audience.  Although I don’t have anything to benchmark it against, the Bellsmyre attendance was fairly low, in my opinion.  There were perhaps around 40 to 50 people, made up of school and nursery staff, parents, pupils, church representatives…and at least one undercover Save Posties Park campaigner.

Terry Lanagan took most of the questions, only deferring to his colleague, Craig Jardine a couple of times during the meeting. The discussion was respectful and polite throughout, and all of the commenters were calm and measured, even when dissenting views were raised.  I think that this is a really important point to make.  Feelings are running very high over the proposed re-development of our park.  At the meeting on 23rd, we may hear Posties described in very disparaging terms by Terry Lanagan, as he has done before, and we may hear our objections and feelings being dismissed as immaterial in the context. But I think it is important that we all stay calm and logical – or our argument will be lost.  Think Bruce Banner, rather than Incredible Hulk.

At the end of the meeting, Terry Lanagan asked for a show of hands – for and against the proposal, and this may well happen at the OLSP meeting.  Another reason why it is really important to attend if you don’t want to lose your park. A headcount is a very simple measure, but it’s effective, and it’s the kind of thing that makes a good headline in the local paper.  Although there’s been very little evidence of much public support for putting the school on Posties, we’ve no idea how many ringers people the Council may have brainwashed convinced to attend to support their proposal.

The Bellsmyre meeting lasted 1 hour 15 minutes. Again, I’ve no idea if this is typical or if the OLSP meeting is likely to be longer or shorter – but, given the contentiousness of this proposal, I would expect that there may be a few more comments/questions, and perhaps a bit more ‘healthy debate’ at the OLSP meeting.  Book the babysitter till 9pm to be safe.

I know it’s a big ask on a winter Wednesday evening, but please make an effort to go along to the OLSP meeting and show your support for the Save Posties Park campaign.  To remind you, the details are :

  • Date : Wednesday 23rd October 2013
  • Time : 7:00pm start
  • Venue : Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School (map here) in the main Assembly Hall
  • Dress code : Informal, but no bare chests or ripped trousers….



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