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Anger as new £135K city role ‘misses out education’
HE is the man who has overseen Southampton’s meteoric rise up the school league tables.
Under Clive Webster, more 11-year-olds are passing vital tests in English and maths than ever before and GCSE results have gone from rock bottom to close to the national average.
Yet today the city’s head of children’s services is fighting for his job after council chiefs decided to merge it with another role.
The new £135,000-a-year role is being created through the merger of the adult services job being vacated by Margaret Geary, who took over on a temporary, part-time basis last year, and the children’s services post held by Mr Webster.
The job, which will be directly responsible to the council’s chief executive and in charge of an annual budget of up to £200m, was created by the former Tory administration as a way of saving cash.
It is believed Mr Webster is among the applicants for the new post but faces competition from outside of the council to continue in his current post.
The successful candidate will oversee the council’s important work with the most vulnerable people in society – both children and adults.
But Southampton’s opposition leaders have called for the recruitment process to be scrapped – because neither education nor schools were mentioned in the job advertisement.
Although Labour bosses insist potential recruits have been told the job will include overseeing children’s learning, Tory leaders say they are worried people with the right experience won’t have come forward in the first place.
Conservative group deputy leader and education spokesman, Councillor Jeremy Moulton said: “We’ve got a major problem.
“Education is being treated as a second-class citizen.
“You cannot ask someone to apply for a job and not be sure what it is. It’s ridiculous.”
The advert for the new job of “Director, People” said it |is an “exciting and challenging” role covering “adults’, children’s, housing and public health services”.
Cllr Moulton said: “That essentially misses out education. If you do want education in you might want people with good education skills and if you’re not telling people that, you might not get the right candidate for the job.
“It seems they’re washing their hands of it now we’ve got academies and free schools.
“But the strategic role for education is probably even more important where schools have independence.
“The whole process should be scrapped.
“We could continue with the set-up we’ve got at the moment, get the new chief executive in post because that’s the most appropriate action, and see what they favour.”
Council leader Councillor Richard Williams said education was important, and although he was “surprised” it wasn’t mentioned in the advert, was satisfied it has formed part of the recruitment process.
He said: “If we don’t feel the candidates are suitable we won’t appoint.
“I was somewhat surprised that detail wasn’t reflected. Certainly, we were assured by the recruitment consultants that the trawl they have done – it’s not just a generic advert, there was some headhunting done – included education.
“We have got people with education backgrounds and at least one candidate who is education-specific more than anything else.”
Mr Webster was unavailable for comment.