New head teacher named as Elgin school row rages around her

Mary Smith (inset) will take charge of an initial 12 pupils at the temporary new school created at East End Primary

THE NEW HEAD Teacher for the yet to be named – or built – primary school in the south-east of Elgin has been appointed.

Currently the paired head teacher for Inveravon and Knockando primary schools, Mary Smith will take up the new post soon and work immediately on preparation for the school to be built by August 2018.

Mrs Smith will take charge of just 12 pupils who have been registered – much lower than the 52 expected – at the temporary accommodation being created at East End Primary.

Under Mrs Smith’s leadership, Inveravon was ranked as ‘excellent’ in terms of learners’ experiences by school inspectors in 2012. It remains the only school in Moray – and one of relatively few in Scotland – to have gained that distinction.

Mrs Smith said: “I believe our children should know themselves as learners and be clear about the relevance of their learning experiences. The children are at the heart of everything I do and my starting point is always with them and what they need from me as their head teacher.

“A school is four walls which surround the future and being involved in the creation of a new school is a hugely exciting opportunity to get things right from the very beginning.

“I very much look forward to working with the children, their parents and the local community to identify our philosophy for education which will provide us with a powerful starting point on which to set the foundations for a 21st century learning culture and environment.”

One of the first tasks facing the new head may be attempting to repair some of the damage caused between Councillors and parents of children who could have been registered at the new school this summer – but declined to do so amid fears over the teaching conditions at East End Primary.

Yesterday many parents reacted with anger at comments made by the deputy chairman of the children and young people services committee, Councillor George Alexander.

The outspoken Forres councillor, who is himself a former teacher, accorded much of the blame for 40 fewer children being registered at the new school to the parents at East End Primary, saying that “snobbery was alive and well in Elgin”.

One parent was so angered she telephoned Councillor Alexander and demanded an explanation for his comments – but was left stunned at his response. Rachel McIntosh wrote: “I told him a lot of it was to do with parents having children in existing schools already – therefore wanting to keep siblings together.

“I also explained that a lot of parents also felt the transition period from nursery to school would not be in place, and their child would be thrown in at the deep end.

“His reply was that parents that have not put their children to the new school and have chosen to go elsewhere are ‘weak’! Basically, not only has he said that some of us are snobs, he has also said that most of the poor parents that have had to make this hard decision with very few facts are weak.”

However, Councillor Alexander denied making any such comment, taking to insideMoray’s Facebook page to explain that the danger was future pupils in Elgin faced being refused a place in their own zoned school.

He said: “Freedom of choice is a policy which was introduced by Maggie Thatcher because she believed that if schools performed poorly then parents would vote with their feet. This causes huge difficulties for those who have to manage the system.

“Some pupils are in danger of being refused a place in their own school because there are so many out-of-zone pupils in their school.

“Moray Council staff do their level best to provide a high quality education to our young people in all our schools, but freedom to choose which school they attend makes the task much more difficult.”