The new head of children’s services in Dundee has said proposals to restructure school management could hinder efforts to close the attainment gap.
Paul Clancy was appointed the new executive director of Dundee City Council’s children and families service on Tuesday.
His vast remit includes child care and education.
Mr Clancy, the current head of secondary education in Dundee, said he wants to raise aspiration levels among children.
He believes that early intervention will be key to reducing the attainment gap, which sees pupils from better off areas perform better than those from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
Mr Clancy said one of his main aims will be to ensure “school readiness” among young children in Dundee.
“The learning journey begins at birth: in the bonding with the parent, their nurture and developing confidence. These things are all critical for when a young person comes into a formal education setting,” he said.
“If you’ve not got that at the start the school has a lot of work to try to catch that up. That for me is a priority area.”
But he warned proposed changes to add another layer of school governance could make it harder to tackle the attainment gap.
The Scottish Government has proposed introducing regional boards, which would add another tier of management while reducing the council’s role in education.
Councillors in Dundee have already told the Scottish Government more resources are needed rather than restructuring.
Mr Clancy said: “I would stand firmly behind the position outlined (by councillors). We have to concentrate on the outcomes.
“Often when you you try to improve outcomes through structures it does not allow you to get to the reality of what the problem is.
“There’s no doubt some structural change can be helpful but my worry with a restructure or additional layering is it can take your focus off what’s actually important as you concentrate on the actual restructure itself.
“Nevertheless we will work with whatever occurs. The key thing is to look at what the principles are and they are getting the best outcomes for young people.”
Mr Clancy also said he wants more looked after children to go to college or university after school.
He added: “I want to make sure we have the highest aspirations for our young people, for our families and that’s there from all partners: teachers, parents and employers.”
Like all local authorities, Dundee City Council is facing further budgets cuts in coming years.
Mr Clancy said: “We need to work with the budgetary provisions that are provided to us.
“I’m not suggesting that’s an easy task but, nevertheless, I think working together and making sure we’re focused on the priorities will be very important in helping to ensure we get the best for young people and families in the city.”
Mr Clancy will replace the current executive director Michael Wood, who is retiring in May.
His new role was advertised last year, offering a salary between £105,049 and £111,474.
Mr Clancy started his career in education as a secondary school teacher in 1985.
Councillor Stewart Hunter, convener of the children and families service committee, said: “This is an excellent appointment as Paul Clancy has a strong track record of delivering for our pupils.”