31st January 2011



Minutes of meeting on Monday 31st January 2011

Present: Annette Wilson, Mike Humphries, Christine Paterson, Ms Denise Penrose, Mrs Sarah Hall, Councillor Alastair Paisley, Councillor Ricky Henderson, Graham Muir, Angie Muir, Pat Robertson, Bobby Smith, Shona Johnson, Helen MacGregor, Jackie Wright, Francis Barkey (Chair of Balerno HS Parent Council) and Mike Ferrigan (PIPER).

Apologies: Councillor Ronald Cairns, Gillian Brown, Ruth Gillan.

1. Council Budget Cuts Update

Initially the impact on Ratho PS was discussed.

Ms Penrose(“DP”) explained that Package 1 of the cuts has gone through and did not affect schools in the front line too badly. Now however we are on Package 2 and that will have an impact in 3 areas:

  • Economy savings: this means heating & lighting. Ms Penrose thinks we have already done what we can on this and not much more can be saved.

  • Janitorial service: there is to be a cluster model. Her current understanding is that this means several janitors will be based at the High School and will come to Ratho on a rota basis. This might mean we do not get such a good service as at present. Also, the link and commitment of one particular janitor to the school will be broken. What will happen in emergencies?

  • A reduction in management time. This means a reduction in the time of the Head Teacher or Principal Teacher. In our case it probably means that Mrs Pettit’s one day out of class will be affected. The Business Manager does not count as management for these purposes.

Ms Penrose has not seen the actual budget yet. Councillors reported that the budget will be set on 10 February. Departments will then allocate their funds.

Ricky Henderson explained that the Council has a savings target of £90,000,000 over the next 3 years. In the coming year it is to save £45 million: roughly 4.5% of its budget. The SNP/Lib Dems will propose a budget and it is theirs which will probably pass. If one cost-cutting proposal is taken out, then another to save money needs to be substituted.

In Education the savings are predicated on changes to teachers’ terms & conditions ie unpicking the McCrone deal. There is no ability to raise additional revenue due to the Council tax freeze.

At this stage the way to try to influence the budget would be to email Marilyne MacLaren (“MM) (the Convener of the Education, Children & Families Committee at the Council) and other SNP/Lib Dem Councillors eg Ronald Cairns with your concerns.

What we as a Parent Council can do: We can make our feelings known about the areas to be cut. The Councillors present agreed that 40 individual structured letters of protest have more impact than 1 joint letter from a Parent Council (ie the actual numbers of protests are mainly what is taken account of!).

Points that could be made would be eg to express concern about the change to janitorial working; or to suggest that front line services should be protected and savings should be made in the “back office”.

MM has already said that secondary school closures are politically unacceptable so the money cannot be saved in that way.

How the cuts will impact on Balerno High School (“BHS”)

Francis Barkey spoke on this:

BHS is to lose £160,000 from its budget next year. As 90% of the BHS budget is staff, that is almost inevitably where this money will be saved. In future years there will be further cuts.

His understanding is that the head teacher only has discretionary spend of around £30k/40k so he thinks that how the money is to be saved will be dictated centrally.

He also understands that the McCrone deal will need to be renegotiated in order for the savings to be made, probably in the salaries of promoted teachers.

Re the proposed janitorial arrangements: FB does not think that the janitors will be based at BHS but rather at a “superhub” somewhere in central Edinburgh. He feels the janitors’ sense of belonging to a school will be lost and the service will be compromised.

People know there have to be cuts and there is almost a sense of inevitability about all this. The BHS PC’s view is that what we need to do is have a targeted approach to try to influence where the cuts should fall – so eg we could argue for frontline services to be protected. BHS Parent Council would rather see cuts in management positions at the Council. In particular BHS PC are concerned about the janitorial proposals and will be arguing against those.


  • AW will put on our PC website the list of email addresses of people to contact to express your views on budget cuts.

  • Any parents who are concerned should try to influence where the cuts fall by contacting Councillors to express their views.

  • DP offered to circulate appropriate information from us about the cuts by ParentMail.

[FB left.]

2.PIPER presentation (School, Home & Community Climate Change Action)

Mike Ferrigan attended the meeting to speak about this.

He explained that he is an environmental activist, mostly on voluntary basis. About 4 years ago he set up PIPER (Parents in Partnership Eco-Reps) as a sub-group of Currie High School Parent Council. This Group actions climate change/eco issues within the school and wider community. MF has since enabled creation of a further 6 sub-groups within schools and that is how the project expands.

MF has sourced funding for the PIPER project so that when sub groups are created, they receive some funding for eco issues.

What happens initially is that MF comes to the school dressed as a penguin - Professor Pongu - and tells the children about the project. Project folders are then handed out in class and these comprise:

  • DVD presentation about the PIPER project and climate change

  • Pupil surveys on the subjects of energy usage, sustainability and transport.

  • Parents survey – parents will be asked if they have skills and/or time they can provide to help the school and community with environmental projects

  • Optional home energy check form for parents

The completed folders are returned to MF.

The legacy is the PC subgroup and what it does in the future. The project should be parent and pupil led; hopefully teachers will get involved also.

In signing up to PIPER the sub group is given £1,000 of kick start funding. This goes to the PC treasurer and is banked through the PC. The sub group then creates an action plan to spend the money, and they are responsible to report back to the PC. The types of thing the sub group might spend the money on are: recycling measures; Bags for Life distributed through local shops, vegetable plots; planting fruit trees; litter picks.

Professor Pongu will be appearing at Ratho Primary school soon.

It was noted that at Ratho we already have the Ratho Action Group and a good number of parents who help out with the school garden. Ms Penrose sees that the PIPER project will extend the work already done with these parents and pupils giving more opportunity for more children and parents to get involved, and will support the schools application next year for its next green flag!

[MF & AP left] [PH also left].

3. Update on 2011-12 class organisation

Ms Penrose advised that on the basis of the projected roll, 6 class teachers’ have been confirmed for next session. Her ideal position is not to re-composite the classes next session. This will mean there will be a P6/7 composite, not a straight P7. There are currently only 12 pupils who will be P7 next year and she thinks this is too small for class by itself.

The maximum number for a composite class is 25.

Ms Penrose explained that to create a straight P7 class would adversely affect other children as it would mean full classes at every other stage. Smaller class sizes benefit the other children in the school. The school would lack capacity for new pupils; she has to leave space in case others enrol (eg the first Cala Homes will be occupied in August). She also has to allow for placing requests. The number on the school roll can essentially change up till June.

SJ & AM (as parents of pupils who will be in P7 next year) put on record their very strong objection to this. They think that next session’s P7 class should not be composited and should be a class on its own for that final year, as is usually the case. There is much to be done to prepare children for High School and these children should have that time spent individually on them. They should be allowed to feel special and in a class apart. To have a composite class cuts across the buddy system. That the children want to feel special & different in their last year of primary school is highlighted by their request for red sweatshirts.

AW is also to be a parent of a P7pupil next year but does not have an issue with a composite class provided all P7-specific activities still go ahead.

Ms Penrose does not believe that children in composite classes are disadvantaged. The point was made that eg at the moment some P5s in the 5/6 composite get French lessons while P5s in the 4/5 composite do not. Ms Penrose acknowledges that there should be consistency and fairness in what is taught across year groups, even if the year group is split across different classes.

4. Specialist teachers and music tuition

The woodwind teacher Miss Hallas is to leave at the end of this session (June) and will not be replaced, due to budget constraints.

Parents have in the past been told that if they buy an instrument, then the Council will provide tuition, so this cuts right across that understanding. The outlay on the instrument was significant and to take this tuition away really restricts the musical opportunities available to our children.

Various options for getting woodwind tuition were discussed, including going up to Balerno High School for lessons (probably not practical) and asking Miss Hallas if she knows of anyone who might provide lessons as an After School Club. It would still be up to parents to provide the instrument (and of course to pay for the lessons). All Council instruments will have to be returned.

Ms Penrose reported that although Mrs Marr has retired, the pupils are still involved in music. They currently do a programme called ABC Music which means they spend 15/20 minutes per day singing in their classrooms.

MH mentioned the Youth Music Initiative, which provides free musical tuition.

The only other non class contact teacher in the school is Miss Imrie, PE specialist.

5. Parents’ Night (24/25 March)

It was agreed that as happened at the last Parents’ Night, the Parent Council should have a presence during the evening session and should seek to have a purpose. Any ideas on what we can do to AW please.

We will probably not provide teas and coffees this time as not many people took us up on that.

6. Training update

RG is to go on recruitment and selection training so that both she and AW will be trained once MH & PR leave at the end of this session. If anyone else wants to do this please speak to AW.

AW has a package called Devolved School Management and Finance Training for Parents that she can make available if anyone is interested.

AW has already circulated papers about Effective Membership of Parent Councils.

7. Notice of AGM: 9th May

As usual the first half of the AGM will be organised by the school to involve various presentations by the children. Then we’ll do the formal AGM business.

MH will be standing down as treasurer. AW thought maybe she should stand down as Chair and let someone else do it. She offered to be treasurer. Others suggested that AW is a good Chair and should stay on.

CP said she will continue as secretary if needed but equally if someone else wants the opportunity she will stand down.

Are there any applicants for the various positions? If so they should speak to AW.

At the AGM we will have a treasurer’s report.


  • School uniform swap cupboard: Ms Penrose is looking for a place for this. The idea would be that outgrown uniform (including gym shoes/wellies) can be handed in to the school and that any parent can then take what they need from the cupboard in exchange for a donation to school funds.

  • Ms Penrose confirmed that 29 April will be a school holiday.

  • Money from Cala: Ms Penrose has emailed them the price for a pirate ship for the P1-3 playground (£1,900) and awaits a reply.

  • PTA Swap Night: this will be 12 March.

NEXT MEETING: AGM: Monday 9th May 2011 at 7pm