Community learning and development (CLD) in the Western Isles is not improving fast enough, according to an Education Scotland report published on Monday December 2nd.

Her Majesty’s education inspectors have criticised the governance and performance management of CLD provision in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, singling out information sharing and planning as areas that need improvement and stating their intention to return for a third time next year to re-examine progress.

They urged the Comhairle to be more transparent after community consultations, so that local people understand how their views influence decision-making.

The report, signed off by HMI Alona Murray, said: “The direction of CLD provision in Eilean Siar is not sufficiently clear. Although partners are making progress against some aspects of work, the governance and performance management of CLD across the authority area continues to require significant improvement.”

The report comes after a follow-up inspection, which itself was triggered in July 2018, when inspectors found that improvements were needed, noting then that: “partners do not yet have a full understanding of their strengths and areas for improvement.”

Today’s report says that, although provision for learners and communities remains of good quality, there has been insufficient progress made against the two main areas for improvement in the original report.

HMI Alona Murray said: “Senior leaders continue to value the role that community learning and development (CLD) plays in contributing to local authority and Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP) priorities. However, the governance of CLD remains a significant area for improvement. The local authority has made very little progress in identifying shared CLD priorities.”

Singled out as good examples of partnership working are the Harris Forum and the CLD partnership in Barra and Vatersay, which continue to work well. Inspectors also cited Comann nam Pàrant’s successful challenge on Gaelic Medium Education in P1 at Stornoway Primary School, saying that it was an example of how the youth and community voice is well supported and strong.

And there were compliments for initiatives within Stornoway, such as the Chill Out Group in the Nicolson Institute and the Full Circle family learning project delivered by Pointers Youth Centre, An Lanntair and the NHS. Inspectors found that mothers are positive about the programme, which is improving their social network and providing peer support.

Community and voluntary organisations and volunteers also garnered praise from inspectors, with the development trusts in both Uig and Harris, the parent-run Còmhla Group in North Lewis, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis (Ness Historical Society) and Kinloch Historical Society all named for the ways in which they are meeting local needs.

However, they said: “There is little progress in developing joint targets and performance measures to better capture the full impact of CLD….Too often teams and partners are unaware of what happens with the data they currently provide or how it can be best used to drive improvement. This area now requires improvement to ensure that the individual and collective contribution of CLD is recorded and recognised.”

Wider public community consultations were noted to be influencing council priorities and planning, but inspectors said that this is not always clear to stakeholders. They said: “There continues to be a need to improve the coordination of consultations and the sharing of findings to avoid duplication and reduce the risk of alienating residents.”

The inspectors concluded: “As we are confident that the provision for learners and communities remains of a good quality, we will not undertake further scrutiny in regard to these aspects of work.

"However, there has been insufficient progress made against the two main areas for improvement in the original report. As a result, we will return around 12 months from the publication of this report to monitor progress against these areas.”

You can read the full report here