Local MSP John Finnie, Scottish Greens, has exchanged letters with Orkney Islands Council’s Chief Executive, Alistair Buchanan over the closure of The Orkney Language Unit.
As reported in The Orkney News on March 9th the closure came as a complete shock to parents and as a surprise to councillors who had actually voted for the closure. One of the parents Lisa Groundwater, said on the Facebook page which she set up:
“The apparent ‘restructure’ of this service is complete nonsense. There was no consultation process before this decision was made whatsoever……….”
John Finnie has advised the Chief Executive that he understand the financial challenges faced by the public sector but also requirement to “to place the child’s educational needs at the centre of education policy and decision making”.
A statement from Orkney Islands Council issued after the public outcry over the closure stated:
“The decision to change the Language Unit to an outreach service was one of the savings proposals that was put forward in public at a meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee on February 9 and then ratified at a meeting of the Full Council on February 22.”
Commenting Mr Finnie said;
“The Equality Impact Assessment which accompanies the Centre proposals was written on 6th January and, in response to the section asking “How have stakeholders been involved in the development of this function/policy/plan” it says, “No.” Clearly indicating an unacceptably casual approach to the consequences of the proposals on children affected and their parents/carers.”
“Nonetheless, and in case there has been a significant ‘misunderstanding’ on the processes involved, I have asked the Chief Executive whether, “prior to any decisions being taken, an individual review of each child’s needs assessment was compiled in respect of the individual implications for them of proposed changes and whether parents/carers were involved.”
“I have also taken the opportunity to remind the Chief Executive of the requirement for the Council to place the child’s educational needs at the centre of education policy and decision making.”
“Most importantly, the Council must engage in meaningful consultation prior to making changes and evidence all decision-making.”
“That’s the only way Orkney will get the open and transparent Council its citizens deserve.”
Steve Sankey, the Orkney Greens’ prospective election candidate for the Council Ward of East Mainland, South Ronaldsay and Burray said:
“One of the Orkney Greens’ top OIC election priorities is open government and public participation, and the Council’s actions in relation to this service are a prime example of behind-closed-doors decision making.”
“The specialised services provided by the Language Unit have been greatly valued for many years by parents of children with communication difficulties. This decision appears to have been taken by officers of the Council as part of the budget setting process, without reference to the relevant service committee, without proper public consultation and information, and without adequate consideration of the impact on parents and children and how best to involve them.”
Click for link for The Equality Impact Assessment