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Annual Report 2013

Chair’s report to the AGM of Harris Academy Parent Council –

14th August 2013

The parent council met on seven occasions over the 2012/13 school year

Minutes have been published and formally accepted as a true record of business in each case and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Pat McCallum in her role as Clark to the Parent Council.

The year has been dominated by a combination of planning for the new school, arrangements for decant and the continuing introduction of curriculum for excellence.

Over the year the plans for the new school have steadily taken shape and were recently passed by the local authority.  Although there will be a level of disruption to be endured by all associated with Harris Academy over the next three years, on our return to the Perth Road site, the building and its surrounding environment will provide an outstanding, modern and purposeful setting for our children to flourish educationally in future years and indeed generations.

A move to a decant school and the challenges that brings both in terms of geography and educational provision should not be underestimated.

The work that has gone into the planning of the decant process and as of tomorrow the arrival of the pupils to this site has been challenging I’m sure.  Not just for parents and pupils but for staff also, especially Gordon Laidlaw who has taken on, and continues with this challenge for the foreseeable future.  My thanks therefore go to him, Jim Thewliss and the senior management team for the professional manner in which they have approached this considerable project and the way they have conducted themselves in light of the many issues this has raised.

As we have seen throughout the year, significant investment has gone into preparing our current S4 for the new curriculum for excellence.  Once again the academic results of the school have been outstanding both within the city and wider within the context of peer schools in Scotland.

The Parent Council section of the school website is an important means of communication between the Parent Council and parents. Led by Lynsey and with the help of the school's administration staff the content has been revamped and regularly updated with Agenda, Minutes, and other items deemed of interest and relevance to parents.

Communication with the wider Parent forum has been challenging and this is partially evidenced by the relatively low number of parents and guardians who choose to come along to Parent Council meetings.  We have attempted to communicate with parents through other mediums such as social media, and although at an early stage, I think this is an area where we can potentially build more engagement within the parental community.

I should also mention the work of the dedicated parental officer in Dundee City Council, Taletta Jamieson.  This role and the courses and meetings that Taletta convenes have made the sometimes daunting role of Chairperson much easier and clarified the responsibilities of the role.

Taletta also arranges the meetings between the Secondary chairs and the Director of Education and Head of Secondary.  These meetings in my experience have been open and honest and a good platform to share knowledge and approaches across our various schools.

A number of initiatives have been adopted by the education authority over the past year which I believe have moved us towards a two tier education system across the city.  The budgetary decision to remove the protected class sizes of 20 pupils for S1 and S2 at selected secondary schools was the initial shift in equality.  This has then recently been followed by additional resources being targeted at four secondary schools through the inclusion plus initiative.  In both cases, I believe Harris Academy has lost out.  Harris is not immune from the issues that these initiatives aim to address and as such I have lobbied the Director of Education on these matters, but to no avail.

In terms of parental involvement with the education department, I feel through my role on the Education Committee over the last year, the voice of parents is now being heard. My view is that initially the parental representatives were a token gesture, but following numerous discussions with both the Director of Education and the Convenor of the Education Committee, I believe more consideration of parental views are now taken into account prior to major decisions being made.  This was evidenced recently on two occasions where drop in sessions were organised to discuss various paper prior to them being presented to the Education Committee.

Finally I would like to note my thanks to the following people who have helped me throughout the year:

Parent Council Members for their strong support of the parent council in its role and our clerk, Pat McCallum.  To Jim Thewliss for his advice and candour, his senior management team for their input and to our local councillors for their support and guidance.  Also to the two parental representatives on the New School project board, Sylvia Rogers and Abu Abubaker who have guided the project forward over the last year.

As you may be aware, I have decided not to stand for re-election as Chair due to increasing work and academic pressures and. I hope that tonight’s meeting will elect a new Chair to act as the strong voice of parents in our children’s education.