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Dundee City Council Education Department Briefing for Elected Members on Harris Academy 26 August 2013

Dear Elected Member A number of issues were raised by Mr Arthur Forrest during the meeting of the Education Committee on Monday 19 August 2013. The issues were in relation to concerns over operational issues, staff welfare arrangements and aspects of health and safety following the move from the former Harris Academy site to the Rockwell site. As with any major move, there will be issues to be addressed. Tidiness, shelving, storage issues can easily be resolved. There are clear protocols and procedures in place within the school to report emerging issues, IT issues, health and safety issues and operational concerns. These apply to all establishments, are familiar to staff and, in the case of the Harris decant, have been discussion points at the weekly meeting of Principal Teachers. In addition there are designated Health and Safety officers within each establishment. As a result, prompt action can be taken to resolve, repair and address emerging issues. In relation to the comments at the recent Education Committee meeting, I would like to make the following points: The decant arrangements to facilitate the move to the Rockwell building were developed and implemented over a sustained period of time during which a significant level of expenditure was incurred to ensure that the Rockwell site was well placed to meet the needs of the Harris community. The Harris Academy Project board made up of representation from council staff, elected members, school staff, parents and senior pupils met regularly The decant represented a major initiative for the department given the number of pupils (over 1000) and staff. Throughout the process there was ongoing dialogue with council staff, departmental staff and key members of the City Development team to ensure that the transition was smooth and that the Rockwell site was fit for purpose. The school opened to staff on Monday 12 August 2013 following the summer holiday period. Additional time of three days had been provided to enable staff to adapt to the new surroundings and to prepare subject areas and classrooms for the new term. It should be noted that pupils did not start in the new building until Thursday 15 August. On Wednesday 14 August I visited the school personally with the Head of Secondary Education, Paul Clancy, for a comprehensive tour of the school and was able to speak with a significant number of staff who were unpacking and preparing for the new term. The mood of the staff was positive and at no point did any individual raise issues of concern. Indeed there was a clear view that the Rockwell building was a marked improvement on the former Harris site. Following the visit, I arranged for additional staff to work in the school for the remainder of the week to support staff in various ways. This included setting up IT equipment, moving resources and furniture and providing general assistance as required. The issues raised at the Education Committee were relayed to me at 5.55pm on Monday 19 August 2013 immediately prior to the start of the meeting. This was despite the fact that Mr Forrest had visited the school at lunchtime on Friday 16 August 2013. I requested that I be given time to discuss the issues with the school team at the start of the next school day but 1

this was not accepted. In fairness, Mr Forrest did allude to the fact that the building had a number of positive features and he was not being critical of the headteacher. However the visit took place without the knowledge of the headteacher and the issues were not raised with him thereby making it impossible for him to clarify matters or take remedial action as required. In relation to specific points raised during committee, I would make the following comments:

Issue Insufficient keys for staff leading to security issues and to difficulties for staff (e.g. PE teachers having to carry valuables rather than store them securely)

Update This issue was in hand. J Thewliss met with a locksmith on Wednesday 14th August. Having toured the school, the locksmith and J Thewliss put together a plan for rationalisation of locks on Thursday 15th August. This plan was shared with Principal Teachers at 8.45am on Friday 16th August. Security issue in the main entrance area of There is a secure entry system. All staff the school open access to anyone entering have been aware of keypad combination on both doors to the school since Monday 12th via the main door August. The front door security arrangement became fully operational on keypad mode when arrangements for pupil circulation had been established. Principal teachers were informed of this at 8.45am on Friday 16th August. Given the sensitive nature of school security, it is disappointing that this issue was raised in a public forum. Storage issues (lack of suitable storage e.g. General storage issues are being sewing machines stored in unsuitable resolved. As with any move to a new building, there is a need to introduce, review location) and refine storage arrangements. The quoted issue regarding the storage of sewing machines was resolved for the short term on Wednesday 14th August. The Principal Teacher of Home Economics had advised the school timetabler well before the move out of the Perth Road site that fabrics would not feature in the curriculum while the department was in the Rockwell building and that sewing machines would not be needed during the decant period. On the return to school on 12th August, the Head Teacher was then informed that fabric design would be part of the 2013 curriculum but not until after the October holiday) The Principal Teacher Home Economics was satisfied with the short term storage solution. There were no phones in the former primary This is not the case. There is a fully area of the school. operational phone system throughout the school. The system was being updated at 2

Guidance facilities no meeting room available

Cleanliness school not clean (boxes in corridors and dust)

Whiteboards installed at the wrong height and in unsuitable locations (example of a staff member standing on a chair to write on the whiteboard)

the point of the visit and is now fully operational in all parts of the school. The identification of interview facilities was being addressed by the school. There are ongoing discussions with guidance staff to find suitable meeting venues. Work is ongoing to ensure a high level of cleanliness is the school. Cleaners were full time in the school from the point of handover on Monday 5th August. This issue was brought to the Head Teachers attention by professional representatives on Tuesday 13th August. All rubbish was removed from corridors by a squad of DCC employees by 10.30am on Wednesday 14th August. A DHT has responsibility for ICT and has worked closely with staff to resolve issues. Whiteboards have been placed in the correct position in almost all settings and an IT action plan is in place. Principal Teachers were updated as to priorities for overcoming issues at 8.45am on Friday 16th August. There is no need for any staff member to stand on a chair. It would be neither appropriate nor in line with our Health & Safety policy.

There are ongoing communications with the Principal Teacher of Home Economics and the Head Teacher was fully aware of developments. The Departmental Health and Safety Officer has visited the school on this matter and discussed solutions. Windows in classrooms cannot be opened The Head Teacher was aware that some staff having to use excessive force or stand windows had proved difficult to open. on chairs to open windows Caretakers/Technicians and Contractors have been working their way around school releasing windows when informed. A blocked sink in a classroom (science) with Standard procedures have always existed standing water within the school for alerting Caretakers to deal with such blockages. Lack of suitable washing up facilities in the Home Economics classrooms (PT having to put basins on worktops beside electrical sockets) Science desks where the height of the desks Teachers have now removed obsolete did not suit the height of the stools drawers to enable pupils to sit comfortably at benches. Conclusion The newly opened Harris Academy is a bright, attractive and welcoming building. The Headteacher would wish to invite each elected member to visit the school at a time of their own choosing and without advance notification so that the school can be seen in its real light. In addition an open visit is being arranged for elected members so that the new school can be toured in the early part of the new term. 3

Michael Wood 26 August 2013