ANGRY parents were set for a showdown meeting with education officials last night after being left in limbo over who will be teaching their children next term.
The situation at Lairg Primary School has seen claims of parents being misled over the recruitment of a permanent classroom teacher to replace two probationers.
They say they have already had two years of relying on temporary teachers
An advert for the permanent post, carrying a salary of between £22,416 and £35,763-a-year, was only recently advertised despite parents making education officials first aware of the developing situation in February.
Lairg has 48 children in the main school, plus 19 in nursery. Those in the primary school have been taught this term by cluster head teacher Ruth Adams – who shares her time with Rogart Primary School – two probationers and two part time staff.
But parents at Lairg want three full-time staff – including a principal teacher. One of the posts could be split between two part-time teachers.
Parent council chairwoman Tracey Bremner said the situation was compounded because around half of the pupils needed some degree of learning support.
She said: "We had to fight to get learning support and we fear that could be easily taken away,
"But what has particularly upset us is that, time and time again, we were promised we would have no more probationers this year. We want to keep teachers so that it gives continuity to both the children and the school.
"It is bound to upset their education not knowing who their teacher will be from term to term. You cannot put a price on a child’s education.
"We are very disappointed with the way the situation has been handled and the amount of wrong information we have been given."
The official at the centre of parents’ wrath is north education quality improvement manager, Barry Northedge.
He was due to meet the parent council last night to answer their criticisms and update them on the recruitment process.
Among the concerned mothers is Dr Fiona Fraser, a former chair of the parent council, who has a son in P3 at the school.
She said that at a meeting of the parent council on May 30, people were assured by Mr Northedge that the last-minute allocation of staff would not happen again as it did last year.
"Lairg Primary requires a period of stability given that 50 per cent of the children attending the school have support needs, some of whom have had major setbacks from constantly changing staff," she said.
"The head teacher had put in her request for teaching allocation for the new term in February, requesting a principal teacher and no probationary staff in order to provide this much needed stability.
"By May there had been no word of the allocation for staffing. At the meeting the representative from Highland education was questioned as to why there had been no posts advertised. He assured the parents that the full staffing required for Lairg would be met from the current cluster and that there was no need for advertising.
"When asked why we did not know the allocation yet he said that the current probationary allocation was still to be determined but by the end of the week Lairg would know its staffing.
"This was not the case. By June 3 the school was notified that a class teacher post would be advertised for Lairg.
"All teaching allocations from within the Highlands have already been allocated so this post will have to be drawn from outwith the region.
"The closing date is set for Monday (June 19) – again a last-minute allocation for the school, if indeed it is filled. This would leave the school with no principal teacher and the possibility, should the post not be filled, with another probationary. This again would leave Lairg Primary School with no management staffing in place when the head teacher has duties at her other cluster school.
"This has been a gross mismanagement of staff. All the information needed was known in February and then the wrong information was given to parents in May
"This is the second year the parent council have been told one thing at a meeting and then the outcome is significantly less than stated and too late to do anything about it.
"Highland Council Education department should be ashamed. They have a duty of care to provide the best education facilities for all children within Highland. There is no excuse such as insufficient funds or tight budgets – this is an example of gross mismanagement.
"Looking for budget cuts, I suggest removing the "quality improvement department" and allow the head teacher to budget and allocate their own staffing. Here is an example of a budget cut that can only improve services.
"Again the children of Lairg Primary School have been let down by Highland Council and ultimately will suffer as a consequence."
Ahead of last night’s meeting, a spokeswoman for Highland Council said: "We can confirm that a letter from Dr Fraser has been received. Education officials are considering the points raised in the letter and will respond directly in due course."