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Highland Council’s education boss Nicky Grant leaves £105k a year job after months on ‘approved leave’

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council's head of education Nicky Grant.
Highland Council's head of education Nicky Grant.

Highland Council’s head of education Nicky Grant is to leave the local authority with “immediate effect” after she spent almost two months on “approved leave.”

In a brief statement the council claimed that she would be leaving the role “to pursue other interests” having spent just under three years at the council ending up in the £105,487 a year job.

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The chairman of the education committee John Finlayson said: “On behalf of the council I would thank Nicky for the service she has given to the council in her head teacher role and senior management roles and wish her every success in her new pursuits.”

The statement from the local authority continued: “Nicky wishes to extend her thanks to staff, children and young people, their families and communities and wish them all the best for their educational futures.”

Ms Grant has worked at the council since December 2018 starting as the head teacher of Alness Academy. Then the former chief executive Donna Manson made her the head of education services in October 2019 before appointing her as education ECO in July 2021.

Mystery departure

Mystery has surrounded the departure of the now former education boss from the council, which only multiplied the rumours about Ms Grant’s absence.

Her period as the executive chief officer of education was marked by not inconsiderable controversy and questions over performance, sparking several campaigns by parents and pupils across the region.

In February, she blamed primary school teachers for poor attainment, while significant questions were raised about the curriculum and there is continued dissatisfaction with attainment levels.

Then before the meeting of education committee on February 21 that was due to discuss that issue, the chairman, Cllr Finlayson announced that she was on “approved leave.”

Multiple attempts to find out what the council meant by the term “approved leave” were met with the statement that the local authority does not comment on personnel matters.

Then in March we revealed a series of stories causing unrest within the council’s education department starting with the removal of the head and deputy teachers from Fortrose Academy – they were also on “approved leave”.

That was followed by an exclusive story revealing how the council had offered apologies to a former pupil and her family for the “inappropriate behaviour” of a teacher at a Highland school following an almost year-long investigation.

Last week, Highland MSP Edward Mountain labelled the council’s education department as “dysfunctional” after it took him months to gain access to Charleston Academy to inspect the crumbling building.

When the council questioned his version of events he said that it simply demonstrates just how “dysfunctional” the education department really is.

The departure comes at a convenient time as the budget indicated that the local authority wanted to shed four top-level posts at the executive chief officer level - which is one wrung down from the chief executive.

Officials occupying these roles can expect to be paid more than Scottish Government ministers so the demand should be high - yet the council has experienced serious difficulties with recruitment.

Unfortunately for the local authority some may not wish to take on the lucrative job because it has the worst school estate in the country and ongoing campaigns about the state of education in the north.

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