Exclusive: Ex-Education Chief urges Named Person rethink

Murdo Macleod, former Director of Education for the Western Isles sat down with NO2NP this week to discuss his concerns about Named Persons.

Murdo headed up the Education Division at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – the Western Isles Council – for ten years, after a career in education which stretches back over three decades.

His role involved the management and administration of schools and for teaching and non-teaching staff across the Western Isles, the buck stopped with him.

Although recently retired, he is an active member of the Education and Children’s Services Committee and he has recently spoken out about the scheme.

Speaking to NO2NP, he said that he isn’t aware of a pilot scheme in operation in the Western Isles, despite the scheme being due to be rolled out in August and he added that councillors are fairly in the dark about it:

“They’re not understanding the thing.

“If it was as benign as people are suggesting then why is there a legal challenge in the Supreme Court?

“It’s being sold as a service but that’s so far from what it’s about”, he said.

Setting aside ‘philosophical’ objections to the plans, he says there are a number of practical considerations for teachers which should be setting alarm bells ringing.

“The administrative workload of teachers is already over and above what they do in the classroom. The Curriculum for Excellence, rolled out over the last couple of years, has left the system at breaking point.

“How much worse will this be with the implementation of the Named Person scheme?

“What are the Government thinking here? Changing the role of teacher into that of a social worker.

“Teachers are contracted for 195 days of the year but Named Persons are being sold as a single point of contact for 365 days. The Government say local authorities will pick up the tab during school holidays but it isn’t a single point of contact after that is it?”

The former education chief also questioned whether teachers will be able to refuse to take on the role of Named Person, and what will happen if there is a problem:

“How exactly are they going to implement it?”

“The SNP’s Jim Sillars, who has spoken against the party line on this recently, says he has read the Children and Young People’s Act from start to finish and according to him it’s silent on the legal bit.”

What advice would Murdo give after decades of influence in education?

“Go back to the drawing board.

“The Government is subjecting all parents and children to levels of intrusion that is unacceptable in an attempt to find vulnerable children.

“We need to pinpoint vulnerable cases and the broad brush of the Named Person scheme is unlikely to achieve that.

“The existing structures should be examined and strengthened. Whatever new system is put in place, the Named Person scheme in its current form does not seem to be the answer.”