Marilyne MacLaren reported to watchdog again

EDUCATION leader Marilyne MacLaren has been reported to the Standards Commission for the third time in two years.

Parent campaign group Kids Not Suits is accusing the education boss of "misleading" councillors by not giving them accurate information before voting on a motion to move qualified back-room staff into classrooms.

The campaign group has criticised the city council for failing to tackle the education department's massive administrative costs at a time when school budgets are being cut and class sizes in many schools are rising.

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But when it came to a vote on the issue at last week's full council meeting, the Lib Dem/SNP coalition voted against moving managers into schools, despite the Tories, Labour and the Greens all voting in favour of the move.

Kids Not Suits spokesman Pete Gregson claims the motion - which he says could have paved the way to move qualified teachers from council headquarters into schools - was voted down because Cllr MacLaren did not provide her colleagues with accurate information about how many suitable staff work in the education department in non-teaching roles.

Mr Gregson disputes Cllr MacLaren's figure - provided in response to an official question asked by a councillor - that there are only 43 teachers and has subsequently reported her to the watchdog, which has the power to censure, suspend or ban councillors from public office for up to five years.

He said: "There will be many more than 43 qualified teachers working in the department in non-teaching posts.

"With nearly 4000 staff in the education department it is inconceivable that only 1 per cent would be ex-teachers.

"I'm worried that the other councillors have been given misleading information which led to them taking a vote which, if they had had all the facts, they might have voted the other way."

However, a source close to Cllr MacLaren hit out against the complaint and said: "It's completely inappropriate to suggest that the answer to this question was wrong. The complaint is just an empty PR stunt.

"You can't lower class sizes by simply sending more teachers to schools - there's a space issue for a start.

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"Mr Gregson has repeatedly failed to grasp the basic issues around class sizes and what he's saying makes very little sense in the real world."

At the start of this year, Bruce Sherry, parent council chairman of East Craigs Primary, complained to the watchdog about Cllr MacLaren accusing her of "blatantly lying" to councillors over school closures.

He and other parent council chairs from schools across the city were furious at claims that parents supported school closures, made by Cllr MacLaren at the council meeting which decided the fate of four primaries.

In June 2008, Cllr MacLaren was reported to the Standards Commission by parent Lynda Flex for removing her from a group set up to look at school closures after falsely accusing her of leaking information.

She was formally cleared by the public sector watchdog, but was rapped for making "an error of judgement".

The investigation found that Cllr MacLaren had acted hastily on evidence based "on suspicion" rather than fact. She was also ordered to apologise to Mrs Flex by council chief executive Tom Aitchison.

A council spokesman said: "The question was asked by an elected member and it was answered appropriately."

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