Being interviewed by MSPs is not a good use of teaching time

James Dornan MSP criticised North Lanarkshire Council for refusing to allow teachers out of class to be interviewed for Scottish Parliament committee
James Dornan MSP criticised North Lanarkshire Council for refusing to allow teachers out of class to be interviewed for Scottish Parliament committee

North Lanarkshire Council has stated it will not take teaching staff away from their classroom duties at the whim of MSPs.

This comes after Coatbridge and Chryston MSP Fulton MacGregor was denied the opportunity to interview teachers in his constituency during school hours on behalf of the Scottish Parliament’s education committee.

The council claims it would have caused too much disruption to teaching time and offered Mr MacGregor the chance to talk to staff after pupils had gone home, but he declined this offer.

Committee convener James Dornan has now written to the council branding its attitude ‘not acceptable’.

He said: “Free and frank information from frontline staff is vital in enabling the committee to scrutinise the Government, its agencies and local authorities effectively.”

The committee is currently examining the performance of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Education Scotland, Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Funding Council.

Mr Dornan said: “It is not acceptable to prevent parliamentary committees from speaking to teachers to gather their views and this was the case when one of our members sought to meet teachers local to his area.

“I have every sympathy if teachers do not have time to meet members, but for an education authority to deny communication with teachers who are happy to engage is not something the committee will accept, therefore we have written to the education authority in question for an explanation.”

The council’s education convener Councillor Frank McNally says a meeting could easily have been set up at a ‘more sensible time’.

He said: “It is total nonsense to suggest that we prevented Fulton MacGregor from accessing our schools or speaking to our teachers.

“Mr MacGregor contacted the council seeking access to schools within his constituency during teaching time. However, this would have caused significant disruption to classes.

“Classes need to be covered at all times and the Scottish Government has acknowledged the crisis in the availability of supply teachers.

“We instead gave him the chance to meet teachers in the afternoon, once children have gone home, and we also offered to help him promote this. However, he declined this offer.

“If Mr MacGregor is serious about closing the attainment gap in our schools, then he surely he wouldn’t want to disrupt teachers while they work and could easily have agreed to meet them at a more sensible time of day.”