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Lessons will be learned over school closures

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Lessons will be learned over school closures

LESSONS will be learned over the lateness of the decision to close schools in response to strike action, according to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s chief executive.

Dawn Roberts spoke up at last week’s full council meeting and assured councillors – who had received many complaints from parents about the last-minute announcement – that new arrangements would She also jumped to the defence of education director Gillian Brydson, who was in the firing line for not acting sooner to notify parents of the closures a fortnight ago.

Opposition Labour and SNP councillors asked a series of questions at last week’s meeting, with some suspecting that Conservatives councillors knew what was going on before everyone else.

This was refuted by council leader Gail Macgregor, and education chief Dr Brydson also held her hands up and admitted she should have taken political direction earlier.

Council chief executive Dawn Roberts acknowledged the “seriousness of the concerns” raised by councillors, and added: “I am more than confident that Gillian and her team, and the facilities management team, acted in absolute good faith all the way through this – and with the best intentions to meet that expectation that we keep schools open if possible.

“So, I just wanted to reassure members that when I met with Gillian, John, Alan, on the Monday morning – and they set out the risks to me – they had been working on this and assessing that risk since the Friday when it first emerged.

“Everything was being done to try and maintain for those schools to be open.

“What you’ve heard this afternoon is a very clear message from Gillian around taking the responsibility for the lateness of that decision, but a real commitment to learn and put in place arrangements that would avoid this in future.”

SNP Dee and Glenkens Councillor Andy McFarlane said: “I don’t see, based on the information available to us, that the decision made was the wrong decision. I think it was the right decision.

“However, I do have some issues around the timeline. I do think the fact that we knew about this on the Friday afternoon – regardless of what time of the day that was – we had two clear days where we could notify families that this was coming down the line.

“We’ve spent quite a lot of time today talking about poverty, and child poverty, and we know the cost of childcare is significant.

“And we’re expecting people at short notice to either not be at work, which doesn’t help the situation, or to pay for childcare.

“There is questions to be asked about what happened on Friday afternoon, and why that wasn’t progressed.”

He added: “We have failed the families of these children by not acting promptly enough. We made the right decision, but we didn’t make it timeously.”


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