“I agree with the comments by Tavish Scott on this in that we need to cut the bureaucracy for our teachers as it has been increasing, and with the re-introduction of national tests by SNP it will only lead to more bureaucracy and teaching to the test and going back to league tables.”
Speaking after the Deputy First Minister delivered a statement to parliament on the PISA figures which showed Scottish educational performance declining, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP said:
“The Scottish Government cannot shy away from its responsibility over the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence.
“Today’s statement was an admission that 20,000 pages of instructions for teachers has not worked and is at worst counter-productive.
“The Cabinet Secretary also refused to give a commitment to work with local authorities to maintain spending in Scotland’s schools.
“If our education system is to be world-class once more, we need to support teachers, not overburden them. A penny for education would allow us to invest hundreds of millions of pounds into schools, helping to address the attainment gap and ensure children get the best start in life.”
From:: David May
The 2015 world wide Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) study was published and it showed that
- Scotland declining in reading;
- Scotland declining in mathematics;
- Scotland declining in science;
and is quite clearly falling behind more countries across the world.
In reading, Scotland’s OECD rank has dropped from 6th in 2000 to 23rd in 2015. In mathematics Scotland has gone from 9th in 2003 to 24th in 2015 and in science Scotland is now 19th, compared to 10th in 2006.
It is obvious that these are very poor and disappointing results and in the 10 year period Scotland is no longer one of the top countries for education. After ten years of SNP government at Holyrood there is no doubt where the blame lies and the SNP must take responsibility for this decline.
The causes are quite clear to anyone involved in education as the SNP have forced cuts to Council budgets for schools and as we know in Angus their failure to train sufficient numbers of both subject teachers in Secondary and primary staff is a major cause of this.
The SNP minister for education John Swinney should halt their damaging plans to restructure and instead use the parliament’s powers to invest, through our Councils, in our teachers. Improving the quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms is the best determinant for improving pupil attainment.
From:: David May
There was a report today in the Angus CouncilPolicy and Resources Committee on proposed developments for strategic collaboration, enhanced partnership working and streamlined delivery of services between Angus, Dundee and and Perth & Kinross and I asked the SNP leader convener to give a guarantee that this was not move towards more centralisation of services.
I am concerned that will lead to the same as occurred in what is in my view the disastrous SNP Government police centralisation with Police Scotland, and also in college mergers where we in Angus have lost services, and lost our ability to determine local priorities.
I raised the issue that the needs in schools and education in Dundee are very different from those in rural Angus and that is why I asked for a guarantee and the SNP leader clearly indicated that he could not give that guarantee. However, his answer did suggest that he would oppose a move towards greater centralisation in education services.
From:: David May
I was appalled that the SNP administration had proposed at a special committee earlier this week that a committee of 6-8 councillors would have the power to make the decisions on council cuts savings without the rest of the council being involved. At the council meeting I opposed this proposal and commented that this was the opposite of democratic accountability and added that I could not believe that any independent or non administration or even SNP councillors could support this, as how could we stand up to our constituents and say we are representing them. I then added that as councillors we must be in the position to comment and vote on proposals and not have a small committee make the decisions without all of us being involved.
I am glad to say the councillor leader did a u turn and he rejected the proposal of a small committee making the decisions.
From:: David May
The Communities Committee yesterday had a report on the decriminalisation of parking so that effectively we can re-introduce the system and employ our own traffic wardens .
At the council committee I commented that” I was delighted to support the report as in my view the decision by Police Scotland in February 2014 to withdraw their traffic warden service without giving us any warning was a ludicrous one. In Montrose and across Angus parking in our towns has been a shambles as many drivers are ignoring double yellow lines and others are abusing time limited parking. This is not only bad for our high street shops but also is clearly a safety issue.
Sadly we will have to wait at least another few months to have our own system where our staff can issue £60 fines for breaches of the system” , but it would have been much more sensible if Police Scotland had discussed their cut in traffic wardens with the council and delayed their decision until we had our own system in place. ” However nice the news system in place this will help to provide a boost to out high street shops as well as making our streets much safer for drivers was well as pedestrians.”
From:: David May
“I have pleased to see that in our primary by comparison with September we have reduced our vacancies from 6.8 to 3.2 the work done by the council director and her staff are to be commended as this had a positive effect in lessening the shortage.
However, it is still the case that we are still 3.2 teachers short in primary schools and it is clear that this is being covered by some supply staff and schools covering internally this through their promoted staff. This means that promoted staff are not able to do the job they were promoted to do. My fear is that we have primary HTs covering classes for months and not being able to do their jobs as HTs. This means that they will not be able to do what they need to in school improvement.
As far as secondary is concerned I appreciate that schools have developed their curriculum to minimise the effect of the possibility of not being able to recruit staff in shortage subject area and having to get staff in areas just to cover classes. However, this means in practice that pupils have less choice and means some pupils not being able to do courses and subject they wish to for their future careers so they will be having to do courses that they would not choose. This is really bad news as we want our young people to develop skills and knowledge in our schools which will be needed in the world of work and for example not having enough teachers of technical subjects will be a huge disadvantage.
Overall in September we are 5 Full time teachers short in secondary and the number has now risen to 8 which across our secondary schools is hugely disappointing and causes these schools problems.
However although it is clear we have had staffing problems in Angus in recent years this staffing shortage is not confined I know to Angus but across Scotland.
I repeat my request to the director I made at a previous meeting that she contacts the education minister so that he is aware of the ongoing staffing problems we are facing. Let us face it staffing is crucial to our pupils achieving, and as a result if he increases the numbers going into teacher training especially in the shortage subjects this will make a huge difference to our youngsters and this must be done.”
From:: David May
Like many others I have real concerns about this change so that our secondary schools will effectively close on Friday lunchtime, which the council voted through despite the fact that I and many others opposed it
At the recent Children and Learning Committee I commented
Cuts in teacher staffing in Angus was always going to be a possible outcome when Angus Council agreed to change the structure of the secondary school week from the current thirty five period structure to a thirty three period structure. The council view at the time was that these changes will help schools to maximise the resources they have available and that amore efficient staffing model will be reflected in the formula used to staff secondary schools.”
As a former timetabler it is clear that what is meant by a more efficient staffing model is another way of meaning cuts in teachers numbers, as £370,000 is needed to implement the changes.
Although I can see that having an afternoon available for work experience, extra curricular actvities sport etc. could add to pupil experience and skills, I am concerned as who will organise it and monitor it as this is outwith the teachers contract. We are speaking about thousands and thousands of pupils for this Friday afternoon across the whole of Angus, and I have serious doubts that their will be enough employers, volunteers, sports clubs etc. be about to carry this out.
However, it also seems from todays meeting that they hope to have it ready for the change in timetable in June as otherwise pupils will have Friday afternoons free and concerns have already been expressed to me that parents as well as many others are to say the least unhappy about this and not only will alternative activities not be available it is also the case that this is totally voluntary for the young people from 1st to 6th year to take part in if they wish.” Essentially I work that huge numbers of Angus youngsters in all our secondary schools will be left to their own devices every Friday afternoon.
From:: David May
I can understand why a lot of people want to use humour to deal with Trump’s win. It helps us to rationalise something that feels incomprehensible to any liberal. And yet I find the humour profoundly uncomfortable and cannot bring myself to see the funny side.
As with Brexit, racist abuse is already on the rise in the US, along with homophobia, Islamaphobia and sexism. There have already been violent attacks both here in the UK and in the US. These attitudes towards others is becoming normalised in our society.
People angry at being left behind have been told for decades that it is fault of “the other”, with no evidence to back up this easy explanation. They now feel emboldened to openly voice and enact their misogyny, homophobia, racism, hatred & bigotry.
Nigel Farage feels free to call Barack Obama a loathsome “creature”, and to suggest that Donald Trump “should schmooze May but not touch her”.
Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamaphobia is now regularly voiced in public, radio and TV without being challenged. They are claimed to be legitimate grievances and dressed up as religious freedoms, concerns about immigration and support for family values. There is nothing legitimate about these attacks because they are baseless.
Many have been left behind in this recession, but they have been left behind by white, wealthy, middle aged, heterosexual men. Men like David Cameron, Tony Blair and George Osborn. White, wealthy, middle aged, heterosexual men like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage.
So I’m in no mood for humour. I am now an angry black man. I am now an angry feminist. I have a right to be angry. Hugely angry. I am in no mood to reconcile, be patient or unite with sexist, racist, homophobic bigots like Farage, Trump, Le Pen and their ignorant followers.
I have nothing in common with them, I find no humour in their ascendancy and am profoundly angry at the deceit, lies and self interest that led to their rise.
From:: Sanjay Samani
Tayside Health Board are having to make huge cuts in their services and at the same time giving managers bonuses. Apparently this is in line with the Scottish Government policy so Shona Robison should change the policy as it absurd. How can she agree to guidelines to pay bonuses while front line services are being cut.
“NHS Tayside said: All performance review arrangements are undertaken in line with instructions issued through Scottish Government Circulars, including national scrutiny of any recommendations made by health boards with regard to individual performance assessments.”
From:: David May
Speaking ahead of a week when the SNP is expected to enact a statutory instrument to increase the Council Tax for properties in Band E and above, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie has urged them to change course.
Willie Rennie says that the SNP have moved from hating the Council Tax to loving it in just a matter of months.
Mr Rennie pointed to previous SNP policy to scrap the “hated” Council Tax. He also took issue with the parliamentary procedure that allocates just six minutes for the debate. Mr Rennie said:
“This should be the week to bury the Council Tax, not to raise it.
“It is time for the SNP to change course.
“The SNP should end their hate-love relationship with the Council Tax this week.
“By tabling this change they are entrenching it. Instead of embedding the Council Tax in Scotland for another decade they should listen to their own advice and scrap it.
“The SNP want to increase Council Tax by at least £100 for properties in Band E and above. And they plan to exploit a loophole to allow just six minutes debate in the Scottish Parliament on the matter. People deserve better.
“The SNP should make reforms that will not only be fair but will make local authority taxation truly local rather than a national tax under the guise of a local one. The Liberal Democrat plan is to pay for a transformation in education by a fairer penny on income tax. The SNP should change course and back our plan.”
Liberal Democrats are also calling for the replacement of Council Tax with a fairer, more local system that reflects the underlying value of the land, in line with the recommendations of the Independent Review of Local Tax.
As an Angus councillor I have never supported the freezing of the council tax as it has led to huge cuts in council services and it has legally been the lower income groups, elderly and pupils that have suffered. Just increasing the tax for properties in band E and above is not the answer as fairness and ability to pay should be central to local taxation.
From:: David May