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Tories' bid to bolster Moray Council education department rejected

By Lorna Thompson

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LOCAL Conservatives have expressed their disappointment after a proposal to boost staffing and resources to support schools was rejected last week.

During a meeting of Moray Council's emergency cabinet on Thursday, May 21, councillors discussed a revised education plan which in part helps to deal with the impact of coronavirus on schooling.

The report raised concerns over staffing and funds within the department, which faces the mammoth task of managing the new normal for schools and planning ahead in a shifting landscape.

The Conservative group, led by Councillor Tim Eagle (Buckie), raised concerns that more resources were required to meet the challenge.

Cllr Eagle proposed a motion to review capacity issues, recognising the need to protect pupils' wellbeing as well as continue the council's drive to improve attainment.

The motion was rejected by four votes to three, with some councillors voicing concern that a review would be counter-productive by adding an extra burden on the department at this time.

Cllr Eagle said the proposal was about identifying support needed for education staff – rather than adding to their workload.

He said afterwards it was "the most frustrated I have ever been in all the time I have been a councillor", adding: "It is very disappointing that SNP and Labour councillors plus a single Independent councillor chose to combine to refuse a very reasonable proposal which, I believe, would have widespread support outside the council chamber.

Councillor Tim Eagle.
Councillor Tim Eagle.

"We must recognise that our schools were already under stress even before COVID-19. Our proposal gave the education department the support it needs to be confident in returning to the council with ideas for additional staff or resources to help. We suggested that might include mental health workers and specialist teachers.

"This was a proposal about showing a strong commitment to our education department and, in voting down the motion, the councillors concerned have displayed a degree of complacency which is not warranted by the situation we find ourselves in."

Head of schools and curriculum development Vivienne Cross said that schools' current focus was on wellbeing, as pupils needed to be in the right place to restart formal learning when possible.

However, she assured members that work to raise attainment had not been cast aside.

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