Recording of Edinburgh Council meeting cut after 'outrageous statement' by parent

Council bosses are considering whether to reinstate the full recording
-Credit: (Image: City of Edinburgh Council)


Part of an Edinburgh Council meeting has been removed from an online recording after a parent claimed some teachers were "scared to speak up" about school issues.

The council said it took the "very rare" decision to cut around two minutes of the webcast for this month's consultative committee with parents (CCwP) over concerns it could "potentially breach data protection laws or other related matters".

It said the video had been "temporarily edited" pending further investigation.

READ MORE - Edinburgh Outlander filming location for major scene named city's top ‘hidden gem’

READ MORE - Brits face £9,000 fine in popular Spanish hotspot for breaking driving rule

A notice advising viewers a section had been omitted was added after the Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted the council about the issue.

The forum meets quarterly and gives parents the opportunity to discuss education issues with local authority officials.

The heated exchange between one member and chief education officer Lorna French took place during the latest CCwP on Wednesday, May 15 during a discussion on the council's 'inclusion review' aimed at improving the city's learning environments for pupils with additional support needs.

Ms French said as part of the work ongoing feedback had been sought from school staff in particular about how to best support young people.

"Should it be central staff that deliver support or do we train school staff?," she said. "All of those questions have been asked over the last - I mean it's been running for months now to be honest, and all of those views have been gathered."

Parent Gillian Coulter replied she was "more focused on how you're getting accounts from school staff," adding her "main issue is that anonymous surveys are going out in the City of Edinburgh just now regarding, from what I understand, toxic work culture in City of Edinburgh Council".

She said: "I have heard from school staff as well that they are scared to speak up, that they are scared to have an opinion, that they are holding their hands up and saying 'we're really struggling here, we're really struggling with the influx of [additional support needs] children, we're really struggling with the overcrowded cirriculum'."

She asked: "How can school staff have an opinion that is anonymous, that they are protected, that their job is protected?"

Ms French said if a teacher felt their workload was "too high" they could raise this with their line manager. "If they feel they don't have the training to deal with the kids that are in their class then that's the responsibility of the senior leaders in their school."

She added: "Most [school staff] are in a union and if there was any issues the unions would not hold back from supporting their members, so I feel that side of things is pretty well covered.

"The inclusion review itself, you can submit your views on that so I'm kind of struggling to see someone who would have an issue and wouldn't know where to go with it. We're all ears, so to speak."

At this point - 49 minutes in - a part of the webcast which it is understood features further dialogue between Ms Coulter and Ms French has been removed.

Around 10 minutes later following a separate discussion Ms French said she felt "quite uncomfortable just leaving that outrageous statement in the ether".

She said: "I know it will be taken offline but I don't think it's appropriate for people to say what they think they know in a public forum and for it just to be left at that".

She added: "Please be assured we will take the comments seriously and we will respond to them but it's the ability to have a microphone and say things that you have no evidence of or justification for isn't okay.

"All of us on this call are trying to do the very best we can for the children of Edinburgh. It doesn't always tie in with different people's points of view, but please be assured every single one of us, everyone in my team, takes their job very seriously and is trying to do their very best.

"Thanks for your comments, it would have been more pleasant if they could have been shared in a different way but please be assured they will be taken forward very seriously."

Responding, Ms Coulter said: "Thank you for acknowledging that. Apologies to everyone that's made to feel uncomfortable during this meeting, that wasn't my intention at all. My intention was to highlight the discrepancies within City of Edinburgh Council and that's all. I'm just here as a person defending school staff."

The council spokesperson said: The webcast has been temporarily edited while we seek advice on whether publishing what was said could potentially breach data protection laws or other related matters.”

Senior officers are considering whether to upload the full recording. The council said permanently editing meeting footage is "very rare and only in very limited circumstances" and would need to be approved by the chief executive based on advice in relation to data protection and other related matters.