Violent Incidents Against Dundee School Staff 2009/10

A comprehensive set of figures for violent incidents against school staff in Dundee have been supplied by the City Council in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from D C Thomson:

The headline figure is a total of 557 violent incidents against School staff, mainly teachers.

This is broken down by types of establishment as follows
Pre-school centres of education - 6
Primary schools - 283
Secondary schools - 112
Special schools - 146
Offsite centres - 2
Behavioural support - 8
Total 557

I am surprised and alarmed about three aspects of these figures.

Firstly there is more than a doubling of reported incidents compared with previously figures released to DC Thomson in 2009 which were as follows:

2009/10 - 557
2009 - 276
2008 - 245
2007 - 345
2006 - 353

This apparent surge in reported incidents is very concerning. Unless I can be convinced that this has been caused by changes to the system of recording of violent incidents, it is hard not to conclude that we have a growing problem in our schools. A steeply increasing number of violent incidents against school staff is unacceptable, although I concede that this still involves only a minority of our pupils.

In addition, I am very concerned that a majority of the incidents recorded were in our primary schools (5-12 year olds). This does not bode well for the future.

I also notice that the Police were only notified 5 times from those 557 incidents. Does this indicate that our schools are overly reluctant to involve the police? I wonder how many of these incidents, had they taken place on the street, would have been deemed to be common assaults.

We don't want a blackboard jungle in our schools.
What measures will the Education Convener, Liz Fordyce, introduce to respond to my concerns, which I am sure are shared by many parents in the city?


Call for Action to Protect Council Employees Caught by Changes to Tax Credits

In George Osborne's Comprehensive Spending Review last week, there were a number of complex changes to Tax Credits. Tax Credits are paid by the government through the payroll, to workers on low incomes.

Under the new qualifying conditions, from April 2012, couple households with children will need to be engaged in 24 hours or more hours of work per week (compared to the current 16) and one of the couple will need to work at least 18 of the 24 hours. As claimants of Tax Credits with children (single parent or couple) can also receive 80% of their child care costs (to be reduced to 70% in April 2011) the length of working hours of employees in fractional or part time posts may mean that many Council employees are disqualified from access to these benefits. That is why Councillor Richard McCready and I are calling on the Council's Policy and Resources Committee to adopt our resolution to review the position of part time post holders working for the council who may be affected in these changes. Their resolution also call for working hours to be considered as the Council restructures in the light of the Con-Dem cuts.

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:

A significant number of Council staff job share or undertake part time work. It will make a significant difference to couples with children if their working hours prevent them from continuing to claim Tax Credits and the related child care costs. While this change is more than a year ahead, it is not too soon for the Council to investigate the impact of these changes on its own staff and what maybe done to help staff retain their entitlement to Tax Credits. I think this is the least that the Council can do as a major employer. Maximising the income of staff from wages and benefits is not only good for our staff and their families abut also good for the economy of the city.

Councillor Richard McCready said,
The Council has a duty to ensure that employees are rewarded for their efforts and that parents are able to work to support their families. I am very concerned about these changes to tax credits. I also think that the council should be considering moving towards providing a Living Wage, set at around £7 an hour.


There Is a Better Way Demonstration Edinburgh

Earlier today, I attended the There is a Better Way march and rally in Edinburgh to protest at public sector cuts imposed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government. Organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) the protest attracted more than 20,000 demonstrators representing trades unionists, churches, voluntary organisations, pensioners and political parties who gathered in front of the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens.

Labour Leader, Iain Gray MSP, who attended the event, said:
"The turnout at this march shows that the people of Scotland do believe there is a better way. The coalition cuts are too deep and too fast, putting 100,000 jobs at risk."

George Samson, of the Dundee Pensioners Forum, said:
"We're here to defend public services. Pensioners depend on these services, and these cuts that are forthcoming are going to affect us adversely."

Before the march, STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said:
"We launched this campaign to dispel the myth that there is no economic alternative to these cuts. There is an alternative. Get people back to work, get the economy growing again, and the public finances will largely take care of themselves. We also launched this campaign to expose the lie that it is those with the broadest shoulders that will bear the brunt of the cuts."


Continuing Support for Balmossie Fire Station

The recent flurry of newspaper articles about Balmossie Fire Station draw on email correspondence between SNP politicians with an interest in the then proposed downgrading of the station. Their views were revealed under freedom of information requests.

On 7 January this year, Broughty Ferry Councillor Ken Guild and Leader of the City Council emailed Councillor Ken Lyall, the Convener of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board to state he was

"very disappointed at the timing of this controversial proposal in a key sector of a marginal seat in the run up to an election."

This was the then approaching UK General Election subsequently called for Thursday 6 May 2010 when the SNP's Stewart Hosie was anticipating facing the electorate in Dundee East.

I want to make it clear that I am not a fair weather supporter of the retention of Balmossie Fire Station. I have consistently been outspoken in my support for the retention of our fire station on the grounds of public safety for the communities served by our fire station, primarily Broughty Ferry and Monifieth and their landward areas. It should also be remembered that our fire station crews are an important part of back up support for serious fires, floods, chemical spills and road traffic incidents in Dundee and Angus.

Whatever their motivation, I am relieved to learn that any reconsideration of the future of Balmossie Fire Station is off the agenda for at least two years.


Concert Programme in Broughty Ferry

St Mary's Scottish Episcopal Church, Broughty Ferry has recently launched a Saturday lunchtime concert series.

Saturday 23rd October

Liam Lynch (violin) and Joseph Fleetwood (piano) playing Debussy Sonata and Beethoven Spring Sonata

Saturday 20th November
Mariko North (piano)
programme to be decided

Saturday 18th December
Michelle Cressida (soprano) with Joseph Fleetwood (piano)
including songs by Richard Strauss

All concerts take place at
St Mary's Church, Queen Street, Broughty Ferry DD5 1AJ
beginning at 1 pm.

Events last about 1 hour.

Suggested donation £5

St Mary's Epsicopal Chruch in Broughty Ferry - OSCR No. SC001750