A PARENT spokesman fears West Dunbartonshire risks being “swallowed up” by plans to work with neighbouring councils to improve schools performance.

Iain Ellis, parent representative, spoke out at a meeting of the West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) education services committee last week, where he argued a new Glasgow City Region deal could could result in the local authority being overlooked and its pupils losing out.

The deal would see WDC pool information and knowledge of the education sector with seven other local authorities while retaining accountability for what goes on in its area.

Mr Ellis told the committee: “I’m fearful. I’m looking at the long term...eventually we will be swallowed up and we’re concerned.”

Councillor Jonathan McColl, council leader, sympathised with Mr Ellis, but stressed the council would not allow the authority to lose out.

He said: “I think every councillor in the country regardless of their party shares that concern. That’s why we have been so strong and saying ‘no, that’s not happening’.”

The plan stems from a Scottish Government objective to develop “regional improvement collaboratives”, which will see councils share knowledge to support schools to close the attainment gap and give more power to head teachers.

However, Cllr McColl explained that while councillors are not keen on the plan, Depute First Minister John Swinney is “open to ideas” and they’re working to create an alliance which “meets what [the Scottish Government] is asking for and suits us locally”.

As previously told in the Post, a report which went before councillors last week outlined the background to the West Partnership, which has already seen “successes” in its 12-month existence.

The report read: “The directors/heads of service with responsibility for education in the eight local authorities which make up the Glasgow City Region have been meeting and exploring ways in which they can share practice and improve.”

Councillors agreed to the recommendations to take part in the group – provided its name be changed to exclude “Glasgow City”.

A further seven local authorities will now decide if they would like to progress with the idea before the group makes its proposal to the Scottish Government.

Committee chair Cllr Karen Conaghan said: “I think we’ve got a lot to bring to the table. I think there’s a lot for people to learn with collaboration from us, probably more so them.”

At last month’s full council meeting, councillors agreed to delegate all decisions on the deal to the education services committee.

Clydebank’s MSP Gil Paterson said: “Areas with high deprivation like West Dunbartonshire are at the front and centre of reforms because one of our major goals is to close the attainment gap.

“Education Secretary John Swinney is on a mission to improve education, and no authority, especially West Dunbartonshire, will be forgotten in this process.”