Council acts over Grangemouth school fears

Council officials carried out an investigation at Oxgang School in Grangemouth ''Picture: Michael Gillen
Council officials carried out an investigation at Oxgang School in Grangemouth ''Picture: Michael Gillen

A school which educates some of Falkirk’s most challenged youngsters appears to be “in crisis”.

Sweeping changes are understood to be taking place at Oxgang School as education officials attempt to sort out problems which have only recently come to light.

These involve moving staff and pupils to other schools, including sending pupils, who are agedfrom five to 11, outside the district.

Only last month Falkirk Council said it was trying to cut back on this as it battles to save cash.

A child protection issue and an internal disciplinary matter are still being investigated by the council.

The Grangemouth facility, in the grounds of Moray Primary, is one of four additional support for learning schools run by the local authority.

Last month, one of the others, Carrongrange in Larbert, received a poor report from education inspectors who criticised teachers for not offering a curriculum that challenged pupils enough.

The disappointing report came only weeks after Falkirk Council revealed its blueprint for changing and improving how it provides extra support for children with additional needs.

Its plans for more inclusive education, no matter how complex their support requirements, will see the service streamlined and where possible, children educated closer to their homes.

However, parents of some Oxgang pupils have been told their children will be sent to residential schools outwith the district on a two-hour daily round trip.

One mum, critical of the way the school is run, said: “There appears to be no structure to what was going on. Things are always changing and there is no routine, which isn’t good for any child.”

The problems at Oxgang are understood to have come to light when staff said they could no longer work there. Staff were drafted in from education services HQ to take classes in the meantime.

This week, a Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “Following a wide-ranging examination of the services that Oxgang school provides for children who need additional support, a number of actions have been taken.

“This is to ensure that the pupils who attend the school are receiving the best possible opportunities and what is best for their learning and wellbeing is at the centre of the school.

“The needs of the 13 pupils at the school have been reassessed and as a result, a number of them will be moved into more appropriate learning environments with specialist support where required at other locations.

“We have also taken the decision to redeploy a number of staff from the school. This will provide them with more opportunities to acquire a wider range of professional skills.”

The council’s actions are based on interviews with staff, as well as a close examination of “other evidence” which showed a number of challenges impacting on the quality and effectiveness of the work in the school.

The spokesperson added: “These actions were not taken lightly, however we recognise that our principal responsibility is towards the learning and wellbeing of children in schools.”

However, a council insider said: “There’s no getting away from from the fact this school is in crisis.”

The situation at Oxgang School has been “managed appropriately”, according to education spokesperson Councillor Alan Nimmo.

He also denied there was a crisis, adding everything possible was done immediately the local authority was made aware of the problems.

Mr Nimmo said: “An investigation has been carried out in relation to the school and the priority has always been the youngsters.

“It has been managed appropriately since day one. There were no problems in the school in the past and this has only come about recently. There is no crisis.”

Councillor Gordon Hughes, the SNP’s education spokesperson, said: “The news about the problems in Oxgang comes only weeks after a very critical report on Carrongrange which is a worrying trend to have begun.

“Like Carrongrange the required support has been late in coming and you have to question whether or not the Labour/Tory administration has lost control in education?

“They must recognise that these are some of the most vulnerable children in the district and their lack of understanding of problems within the areas of service delivery is frightening.

“Ultimately the buck stops at the door of the education portfolio holder, Councillor Alan Nimmo and it’s high time Mr Nimmo got to grips with his responsibilities or step aside for the good of education in Falkirk district.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Education Scotland, the government agency which supports quality and improvement in Scottish education, said it was aware of the current situation at Oxgang School and had been liaising with the local authority.

They said: “We will work with them to support them through this period and to ensure a smooth transition for the children at the school.”